Karnataka edu dept shuts school for ‘serving non-veg food’ on Christmas

The school faced allegations without proof that children were being converted to Christianity; the official order however doesn’t mention conversion.
St Paul school in Bagalkote district of Karnataka
St Paul school in Bagalkote district of Karnataka
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An official of the Karnataka Education Department on December 30, Thursday issued an order to close the St Paul Higher Primary School in Ilkal near Hungund in Bagalkot district, claiming that the school had ‘illegally’ celebrated Christmas on a Saturday and served non vegetarian items to kids. The action was based on a complaint given by a man named Pradeep Amarannanavar, who calls himself the convenor of 'Pro-Hindu organisations’ and alleged that the school served non-vegetarian food and that they were converting children to Christianity.

R Vishal, the Commissioner for Public Instruction, however told TNM on December 31 that the order had been issued in haste and the Block Education Officer has been asked to withdraw the same. Though in his complaint, Pradeep made allegations of conversion, the order did not mention this. The Block Education Officer however told TNM that the action was taken to defuse tensions since several Hindu right-wing groups were forwarding WhatsApp messages alleging conversion at the school; he claimed he gave ‘serving non-vegetarian food’ as a reason, but the school in fact has been allowed to open.

Pradeep Amarannanavar’s complaint named the school’s Principal Silvia D Marck, and another school official, Jackson D Marck, and alleged that they were converting children with the help of a priest. Without any corroborating proof, the complaint went on to make more allegations including that the school was forcing parents to remove pictures of Hindu gods from their houses. It also said that children from Kuruba, Lingayat, SC, and ST communities were being converted.

Based on the complaint, IM Angadi, Education Department’s block resource coordinator  conducted a survey at the school and the report said that the event had been held on a Saturday, which is a non-working day. “For the unlawful program at the school, the school’s chief is directly responsible. Complaints have come from the public and several organizations. Also this has been aired in the media too. Because of this the department has been embarrassed. This behavior is saddening,” he said.

The Block Education officer then issued an order saying that the school’s behaviour had brought embarrassment to the public and also the department. “In this regard, until you receive further orders from this office, you shouldn't open your school. In case the school is opened, legal action will be taken as per the rules,” the order said.

Officials in the Education Department who TNM spoke to said that there are no restrictions on food on campuses. Moreover, they conceded that the Block Education Officer acted under pressure from local groups and issued the order.

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