In another incident of right wing groups causing communal disharmony in Karnataka, a Hindu hardline group in Kolar district created a ruckus over a group of Muslim students offering namaz within school premises on Friday, January 21. A video of students offering prayers at a government school in Mulbagal surfaced on Sunday, January 23. In the same video, a group of men belonging to a Hindu group can also be seen barging into the school office and shouting. Police officials were called to intervene and the men can be seen arguing with them as well.
According to reports, some students of Mulbagal Someshwara Palaya Bale Changappa Government Kannada Model Higher Primary School have been offering Friday prayers inside the premises since December 2021. Even as no formal complaint has been filed against the school so far, the District Collector(DC) has ordered a probe after members of the Hindu organisation protested.
According to reports, the students were apparently given permission to hold their prayers within the school by the headmistress, Uma Devi, to prevent the children from going outside the premises.
But after the ruckus on January 21, Uma Devi denied any knowledge about this. In a video, the headmistress is heard saying that she was unaware of the development and came to know about this only after being informed by the Block Education Officer. "It has happened without my knowledge. In the future, we will not allow this. All students are equal for us. We have not told anyone to do namaz or anything," she said.
The Block Education Officer (BEO) Girijeshwari Devi, speaking to TNM confirmed that she has not received any formal complaint so far. āI have seen the video of namaz. Some Hindu organisations had sent me the video. I had already sent a team to investigate the incident and received a report. The headmistress admitted that she had given permission. Now the District Collector too is sending a team,ā she said.
She said that according to the team that visited the school, around 25-30 students were performing namaz regularly. āThere are around 165 students from the Muslim community and the total strength of the school is 375. There is a mosque right next to the school, there is no issue in them going there for prayers,ā Girijeshwari Devi said.
āWe have not received any complaints from any of the other students opposing the namaz,ā she added.
A source working in the school said that when the school reopened after the pandemic, it was difficult to retain students in the classrooms for the entire day. Many of them would leave the premises for afternoon prayers and then would not come back for the afternoon session. So, it was decided that they could perform namaz inside the school during the lunch break. The source also added that none of the students from other communities have raised any objections to this and it became a point of contention only after members of a Hindu group got involved.
In the video of the protest in front of the school, one of the protestors is heard saying that the school has a history of students becoming IAS and IPS officers and this incident has pained them and tainted the image of the school.
After the news of the commotion created by the Hindu group spread, Deputy Commissioner of the district, Umesh Kumar ordered an inquiry into the incident by the Deputy Director of Public Instruction.
This comes at a time when Karnataka has been seeing a series of incidents where Muslims and Christians are being targeted by Hindu hardline groups. Most recently, in Gadag district, a Bajrang Dal leader was arrested as one of the accused over the murder of a Muslim youth.
In another incident, in Udupiās Womenās Government Pre-University College, eight Muslim students who wanted to wear their Hijab to college were barred from attending classes over violation of ādress codeā, following protests by ABVP.
There have also been a series of attacks in the state against members of the Christian community over allegations of āforced conversionsā.