Tuesday, May 19, 2015

District officer of Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh bans use of ‘Father’ in Christian missionary schools

Months after the VHP arm-twisted Christian missionaries in the tribal zone of Bastar to replace “Father” by “Pracharya” in their schools, the Chhattisgarh education department has begun issuing official circulars “banning the use of Father” in Christian educational institutions.

In the latest instance, the District Education Officer of Mahasamund issued a circular on May 11 to all the 14 missionary schools in his district in this regard. Curiously, the circular “approved by the Collector” is also copied to the Mahasamund branch of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the departmental officer in Raipur.

In February, Kanker district administration had issued a similar circular to the missionary schools.

The Mahasamund circular asks the institutions to “immediately stop the usage of Father for the head of the institution” and follow “Pracharya” or “Sir”. It also directs them to immediately inform the education department about the “action taken today itself” on a given email id.

Explaining the rationale behind issue of the order, Mahasamund Collector Umesh Agrawal told The Indian Express: “There were complaints that students are being compelled to address teachers as Father. No one can compel anyone in this way.”

Terming it an instance of “administrative terrorism”, Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said: “Earlier they beat us, now they are using administration to destroy our institutions.”

Pannalal called it a violation of fundamental rights. “As a minority community, we have been given special rights under the Constitution. If they don’t want that, let them change the Constitution and the laws once and for ever. At least, we will be spared this administrative terrorism,” he said.

Congress also took strong exception to it. While state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel termed it as “Raman Singh’s clear attempt to communalise Chhattisgarh”, party spokesperson S N Trivedi said “it’s extremely unfortunate that once again the BJP government has succumbed to the unconstitutional demands of VHP.”

Last November, under intense pressure from VHP, Catholic missionaries of Bastar had agreed that principals of their schools would be addressed as “Pracharya”, or “Up-pracharya”, or “Sir”.

In a signed agreement with the VHP, they had also agreed to put up photographs of “Maa Saraswati” in their institutions. The missionaries had also submitted in writing that “the Catholic community expresses regret if any community, religion or society was hurt by our community.” The Catholics run 22 schools in the tribal district of Bastar.

VHP leader Suresh Yadav had justified the move saying “We asked these missionaries the meaning of father? Father means pita. We have only one father, how can we address a teacher as father?”

He had said there was no contradiction in calling Saraswati “Maa”, though. “Maa and behenji are words of respect. We address older women as mataji, younger women as behenji. Matayen aur behanen, we say before any address. But we never address an old man as pita.”

That was, however, an informal agreement between the VHP and the missionaries. Mahasamund’s order lends it an administrative legitimacy.

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