UP school manager bans national anthem, arrested

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A school manager in Allahabad has been arrested after he declared a ban on singing the national anthem. With mounting pressure against the manager from political parties and public outrage, the manager, Zia-ul Haq, was arrested late evening on August 7, two days after he made the statement.

The manager of M. A. Convent School in Baghara, Allahabad, ordered students and teachers to not recite the national anthem for the upcoming Independence Day. In protest, seven teachers and the principal of the school resigned.

According to the teachers who quit, he had said that the words “Bharata Bhagya Vidhatha” was against his religion. He said, “Only Allah can be the Bhagya Vidhata, which means the one who decides our destiny. How can we call Bharat our Bhagya Vidhata?”

He also said, “Muslims believe that the Almighty is the lord of everyone, including all Indians. Even the Supreme Court has said that a person is free to not sing the national anthem if any part of the anthem is against his or her religion."

According to reports, BJP's National Secretary Shrikant Sharma alleged that the school had banned the national anthem and 'Vande Mataram' for the past 12 years. He blamed a senior leader of the Samajwadi Party, led by Akhilesh Yadav, to have backed the school's anti-nationalism. “A senior UP minister has ensured that no action is taken against the management. The SP government is giving protection not only to criminals and rapists but also to those who insult the nation and are anti-nationals.” He added that this was part of the vote bank politics.

The school, with 300 students, is not a recognised institution, according to authorities. Allahabad's Basic Shiksha department had sent a legal notice to the school.

Zia-ul Haq has been charged under the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act, 1971, and also for running a school illegally.

In 1986, a school in Kerala expelled three students who refused to sing the national anthem, saying that they belonged to the Jehovah's Witness sect. In response to their parents' appeal, the Supreme Court ruled stating,“there is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the national anthem nor is it disrespectful to the national anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the national anthem is sung does not join the singing.” It also said that the expulsion was a “violation of the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”

However, the Act also states that it is illegal to “intentionally prevent” or cause disturbance during the singing of the anthem, and offenders can be punished up to three years in jail along with a fine.

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