It comes to the amazement of the citizens of a secular nation that where on one hand the people of different race, caste, religion are coming together to celebrate numerous events, the Supreme Court has decided to hear a petition which claims that prayers being recited in the Kendriya Vidyalayas are not secular in nature, questioning the secularism of Sanskrit language.
Shri Veenayak Shah, the petitioner in the instant petition is being represented by Advocates Satya Mitra and Pallavi Sharma before the Apex court where the matter is being heard by a 5-Judge Constitutional Bench lead by Justice Rohinton Nariman. The truth put forth by the Solicitor General before the Apex Court seems to be very precise and true as far as it states that the reciting of Sanskrit shlokas are universal truths and that there is nothing religious attached to these shlokas. Referring to the Apex Court’s emblem, “Yato Dharma, Tato Jaya”, the Solicitor General exclaimed that this has been derived from the Mahabharat and this means that where there is dharma, there is victory.
Now, the point that needs to be delved upon by the Supreme Court is whether universal truths shall be construed as religious texts and whether Sanskrit should be attached to any religion. Also, whether several other texts like Satyamev Jayate shall make the High Court’s emblem non-secular is what the Apex Court needs to ponder upon. The issue comes in light of the 1,100 KV’s in India which started more than 50 years back and continue to provide corners of the Nation with quality education upto 12th.
Brihadaranayaka Upanishad mentions: “Asato maa sadgamaya, Tamso maa jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma amritam gamaya” meaning “lead me from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light and from death to immortality”. BJP Leader B Mahtab during a session of the Parliament had earlier commented on this issue in the Parliament wherein he questioned the intent of Veenayak Shah, the petitioner. Shri Mahtab putting forward his views on this issue stated argued that there have been many other excerpts other than this shloka which have bene picked form Ramayana, Mahabharata and Upanishads which are on display both in the Parliament House library and the Teen Murti Bhawan Library and there was not a single question of secularism raised against them. Moreover, Dharma chakra pravartanaya is written in the panel in Lok Sabha, but this does not mean that the Parliament promotes a specific religion.
Coming over to the Kendriya Vidhyalaya Revised Code, Article 92 states that the School must begin with the morning assembly which the Principal, Teachers and Students should strictly attend. The Article further makes it a compulsion to recite prayers by closing their eyes and folding their hands. The question which the Atheists have is the question of scientific temperament and reason and knowledge. As the group of Agnostics, Skepticists, Rationalists have no belief in the Almighty, this section of society questions even the folding of hands as this might be considered as a submissive act. So, on one hand where there is no person above men themselves as per atheists why should they join hands before someone.
Moreover, question also arises by people of other religions who fail to join hands before Hindu Gods as claimed by them. Further, non-recital of these prayers has resulted in the humiliation of the children on stage in front of the public. The Principal similarly has been endowed with the responsibility to ensure that the Teachers perform their tasks duly, and as per the Code each member of the KV is to follow his duty with due discipline be it the Principal, Teachers or Children.
Now, if for once we look at the other side of the picture, let’s for once imagine that the same thing was being said in English with a mere change of language. Even if students say: My Lord, help me in improving myself day after day and help me in achieving my goals. Take me to a higher level of kindness and make me practice love and affection with others, this won’t mean that Christianity is being promoted herein. Thus, just because the shlokas are being recited in Hindi and Sanskrit, in my opinion it would be unjust and illogical to attach Hinduism with it, keeping into consideration the fact that every religion promotes kindness and love.
Moreover, when Atheists speak against closing the eyes and folding the hands, I opine that this does not portray submissive behaviour but makes one realize that there is always a greater being than an individual and that one should always be remain grounded in his life despite of whatever feats he or she achieves. Thus, in my opinion rather than taking this as an act of submissiveness to god, this act should be taken into consideration for reminding oneself to keep one’s feet on the ground and keep working in a kind and loving manner with others.
The legal nuances of the petition talk basically about the 6 grounds on which the matter shall be heard further by the Apex Court, the first 3 discussed herein being the violation of constitution as a part more or less of the fundamental rights of citizens and the latter 3 being the moral rights of the citizen. Talking with regards to the violation fundamental rights firstly, where the violation of Article 21 is claimed on the ground of the denial of right of refusal to pray or refrain from praying which is not being given to the children. Secondly, the violation of Article 19 has been claimed as the students are not being allowed to express themselves freely as they are compulsory put to fold their hands, close their eyes and the recite the prayers. Thirdly, the violation of Article 28(1) is being claimed as the petitioner says that KV’s are being wholly funded by the Central Government and as a result they cannot impart religious instruction to any child in the school.
The other 3 moral rights of the citizens claimed are firstly, curbing the scientific growth of the children as the knowledge temperament is being harmed by repeated recitation of the prayers. Secondly, the prayers are against the concept of Atheists and some minority group of people and Thirdly, that the prayers are forcing Hindu Religion both in form and substance to children of all religions and that it should be prohibited under the Constitution.
Having discussed the logical explanations to the later 3 moral rights of the children, let us consider one by one a reasonable analysis of the provisions of the Constitution. Firstly, that there is no imposition of any prayer on any of the child in KV’s and if the parents of the children feel so that the prayers imbibe Hindu religious texts, then the secular meaning construed to the prayer must be focused upon which is not religion specific but talks about the welfare of one and all. Secondly, as already discussed prior to this that the hands of the students are being made to be folded because of the primary reason to make children realize that one should always remain attached to the ground howsoever high his works make take him and not to portray some kind of submissive behaviour. Thirdly, as held by the Supreme Court in Aruna Roy v Union of India that there should be a fair study of religions among schools and every religion must be given equal importance and that no specific religious instruction shall be provided in schools maintained out of Government funds, it is crystal clear that KV’s have made it precise through the idea of keeping several other recitals such as Vasudeva Kutumbakama and All Indians are my brothers and sisters along with the morning prayer that there has been no scope left for the promotion of one specific religion and that there is a clear cut promotion of Secularism amongst the students.
It comes to my amazement that when at one place during the morning routine at KV, the pledge “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters” is being taken and “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakama” is being preached as the world is one family, on the other hand there are people who force themselves not to think with a broad mindset thereby keeping the windows of their minds closed and causing troubles for others. Frivolous issues like these also waste a lot of time of the Apex Court as the Apex Court has lots and lots of work load of cases holding more importance than this one. The lawyer from Jabalpur has howsoever done one good thing by filing this petition, and that is to unite the people of the entire KV family by reminding them how important these prayers were to inculcate good values in them in the childhood and I am sure of the fact that every KV Alumni must be proud of the manner of education they sought in their childhood.
Jai Hind !!!