A Hindu nationalist group in the southern Indian city of Bangalore recently accused an explicitly Christian private high school of “forcing” the Bible on students of the school by teaching it in class, Bangalore’s The News Minute digital platform reported on Tuesday.
Mohan Gowda, a Karnataka state spokesman for the Hindu nationalist group “Hindu Janajagruti Samithi,” alleged in recent days that a private Christian school called Clarence High School was “forcing” some of its non-Christian students to read the Bible. Clarence High School is located in Bangalore, which is the capital of India’s Karnataka state.
“The group [Hindu Janajagruti Samithi] claimed there are also non-Christian students who are studying in the school and are forcefully made to learn teachings in the Bible,” India Today reported on April 24.
Gowda claimed the school in question had allegedly “violated and misused” two articles of the Karnataka state constitution (articles 25 and 30) addressing freedom of religion.
Gowda cited as part of his claim an official Clarence High School document that read, “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 form Gowda referred to was an application for grade 11 students seeking admission to Clarence High School, according to The News Minute. Alumni of Clarence High School told the Bangalore-based news platform on April 26 that the form was similar to those they had signed as students of the learning institution in previous years.
“Alumni of the school said that it [the document signing] 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,” The News Minute relayed.
“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 Bangalore-based lawyer who graduated from Clarence High School in 2011, told the news outlet.
British Christian missionaries founded Clarence High School in 1914 as a minority Christian institution, according to the school’s official website.
“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,” Soham Pablo Banerjee, a Bangalore resident who graduated from Clarence High School in 1996, told The News Minute on Tuesday.
It remains unclear why “Hindu Janajagruti Samithi” chose to accuse an established and explicitly Christian school of “imposing” the Bible on its students in recent days. The action may be tied to a general hysteria that has seemingly gripped Karnataka state since January when a so-called “Hijab row” broke out in schools and universities across the Hindu-majority state.
The uproar began when a group of five Muslim girls insisted on wearing hijabs, or Islamic head coverings, in class at a college in Karnataka’s Udupi city. The girls defiantly wore the garments in stark violation of an established policy at the college prohibiting students from wearing religious garments. The Muslim girls subsequently claimed that officials at Udupi’s Government P.U. College for Girls barred them from attending classes after the incident. The group’s allegation inspired Muslim students at learning institutions across Karnataka to similarly violate their school’s established bans on religious clothing by early February.
The protest grew so powerful that Karnataka’s Chief Minister was forced to temporarily shut down all schools across the state from February 9 to February 11. The issue escalated when a group of Muslim women in Karnataka filed petitions with the state’s top court arguing that they were guaranteed a right to wear hijabs by India’s constitution. The Karnataka High Court on March 15 upheld Karnataka’s established policy banning students from wearing religious garb in state-run schools.
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