Alumni from the Clarence High School in Bengaluru have backed the school and hit out against a complaint by members of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, stating that the institution was ‘imposing’ the Bible on its students. The school is located in Richards Town in central Bengaluru and is owned and run by Christian missionaries as a minority institution.
The controversy erupted when the Hindu Janajagriti Samiti found an application form for Class 11 admissions, which stated, "You affirm that your child will attend all classes including Morning Assembly Scripture Class and Clubs for his/her own moral and spiritual welfare and will not object to carry the Bible and Hymn Book during his/her stay at Clarence High School (sic)." The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, claimed that the school “violated and misused” Article 25 of the Constitution, which deals with freedom of religion.
However, alumni of the school said that it was a practice followed by the school for years, and also pointed out that the school was explicitly set up as a Christian minority institution. They also condemned attempts to communalise the issue. “When you join Clarence, it is clearly explained to the parents that the Bible is taught here and the education is Christian value-based. It is after signing this declaration that we join the school and every student receives a Bible and a hymn book. It is not something new that has happened,” Abraham Joseph, a Bengaluru-based lawyer who graduated from the school in 2011 told The News Minute.
The official website of the school also states that it is a Christian minority institution founded in 1914 by British missionaries, Alfred and Walter Redwood. “The school was established with a vision to foster the complete and wholesome intellectual, spiritual, moral, physical and social development of every child, based on Christian values,” it adds.
“This is a non-issue raked up this week when Bible studies has been a part of the school's activities for decades. This school is well known in east Bangalore, especially Frazer Town and Richards Town area. Any student joining the school signs up with the undertaking They are not forced to sign. It is an agreement between parents and the school. Apart from all other subjects like science, maths and languages, scripture studies is also taught. Students also carry the Bible for the morning assembly where a teacher leads the school in a prayer. After the prayer, studies go on as usual. This has been the case for decades and not something new that has sprung up,” says Soham Pablo Banerjee, who passed out of the school in 1996.
Sohan had also written a social media post in support of the school, which was widely shared. “When the only way for some people to remain in power is by “othering” people and by fighting imagined enemies, a section of people will keep discovering such minorities. The easy ones are already in progress — religious minorities. Then they will come for linguistic otherness. Then otherness to do with food habits. Otherness to do with how you dress. The list is endless. The enemies will NEVER go away. There will always be ‘others’ to bully,” he had said in the post.
Following the complaint by the Hindu group, a Karnataka Education Department official even visited the school on Monday, April 25. On Tuesday, April 26, the Karnataka government said that J Manjunath, the Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru Urban, will begin a probe on the issue. The announcement of the investigation began following directions issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
Meanwhile, Jerry George Mathew, the school principal, had told the media on Monday that he is sad about the development. He maintained that advocates will answer all questions raised against the institution and that they will not break the law of the land.