Goons of the Sri Rama Sene barged into a Mangaluru school on Saturday and forced the headmaster into cancelling the extra-curricular Arabic classes.
About 30-40 activists of the Sri Rama Sene barged into a classroom of the St. Thomas Aided Higher Primary School, Neermarga, which is located about 20 km from Mangaluru city.
Headmaster of the school Melwyn D’Souza told The News Minute that the activists had barged into the school at around 9.30 am towards the end of the Arabic class.
On Saturdays, the school teaches Arabic and karate as extra-curricular activities to students of Class 6 and 7. Until last year, they also taught French and German, but they were cancelled due to lack of staff. Arabic and karate classes were started last year. All activities are optional, Melwyn said.
Arabic teacher at the school Abdul Khader (32), said that the activists came directly to the classroom. “They all just walked in and began making noise, shouting about imposing Muslim culture, and taking photos and videos of the students. The children were frightened. Two or three of them even started crying. How can they do this to kids?”
Abdul says that he taught the children how to speak Arabic, just enough to converse.
Melwyn, who became the headmaster in 2004, said: “They barged into the classroom and threatened the kids. They called me to the classroom, but I insisted that they come to the office. Finally they did, and we said that if nobody wanted the Arabic classes, then we would stop it. Then we had to give a statement to the media. There were three mikes in front of me. The media kept pestering me with questions and I had to answer all of them.”
Now, Abdul Khader is out of a job, and Melwyn finds himself defending the integrity of the school’s intentions. “We just want the children to have knowledge. We have no agenda.”
Melwyn is upset by the turn of events. “What pained me most is that they directly went to the class. They could have told me if they had a problem. Not even my old students told me. I recognised four of them. The parents of some of those boys too would have studied here.” He has taught maths in the school since 1997, but the school itself was started in 1908.
Jeevan Neermarga, the Dakshina Kannada district convenor of the Sene, told The News Minute that local Sene members had gone to the school. “Our local members and the village people went to the school. The school was teaching Urdu and Arabic.” He claimed it was against the rules and that Urdu was a language that “associated with one community”.
He appeared to be unaware that schools and universities in India teach Urdu, Arabic and Sanskrit languages.
Melwyn said that all the men who came were aged between 20 and 25, and has named the four he recognised in the complaint with the police. “They are good kids, there’s no doubt about that. But the atmosphere here is like that. This is the age… You can’t reason with them. They just want to find something wrong with everything.”