Gandhinagar: The controversy surrounding ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ reached a new height in Gujarat on Sunday. Till now the slogan was being equated with patriotism by those in favour of it while the ones against it quoted religious freedom or Indian Constitution to not chant it. An educational trust in Amreli Shree Patel Vidhyarthi Ashram Trust which is headed by Gujarat BJP leader Dilip Sanghani has brought right to education within the ambit of the raging controversy and declared that students seeking admission to its institutes will have to write ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ on their application forms, or lose admission.
According to sources, the decision was taken in a trust meeting on Sunday. The trust runs a primary school, two high schools and a college in Amreli. Currently, around 4,500 students study in the four institutes.
Political observers feel Dilip Sanghani has made the move to get back in the limelight after being sidelined in the new dispensation under state BJP president Vijay Rupani. Even at the district level, Vijay Rupani appointed Hiren Hirpara, a confidant of MP Narayan Kachhadia, as the BJP’s Amreli district president. It was no surprise then that Sanghani preferred to not attend felicitation programme of Hirpara. Sanghani, while talking to Mirror, justified the decision stating it was the 104-year-old trust’s attempt to inspire nationalism in its students.
He said, “In the time when anti-national sloganeering is gaining momentum on educational campuses, we want our students to respect their country. So, we have decided to give admission only to those students who write Bharat Mata ki Jai. Our trust was founded by Mohan Veerji Patel, a freedom fighter. We strongly feel that a trust with such legacy of nationalism has a responsibility to invoke in its students the feeling of nationalism. The new rule will be implemented from upcoming term. Students who don’t write Bharat Mata ki Jai on the admission forms will not get admission.”
The decision by the trust has not gone down well with the Congress which accused BJP of trying to divide the country. Congress MLA from Amreli Paresh Dhanani said, “BJP must stop disrespecting the constitution which has given all religions and caste an equal status. It doesn’t require us to prove our patriotism by chanting some slogan. This decision by the trust headed by Sanghani proves that BJP does not believe in India’s democracy.BJP is trying to divide the country by engaging people in illusive democracy for their political gain.”
Meanwhile, State Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said that no one should be forced to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai. He said, “This is an independent decision by a particular organization and has nothing to do with BJP. While it is good to say Bharat Mata ki Jai, it cannot be made compulsory.” When asked whether the trust’s decision was in violation of the students’ constitutional rights, Chudasama said, “I have not received any complaints.
If and when we get one, a decision will be taken.” Sajjad Heera, executive committee member of the state BJP Minority Cell said: “There is nothing wrong in chanting or writing Bharat Mata Ki Jai. In Islam also, it is said that we should bow down to our motherland. There is nothing wrong in loving one’s motherland. Every Muslim in India likes to say Bharat Mata ki Jai. Those who don’t want to say it are just trying to create unnecessary problem.”
Legal experts concur that the trust’s decision is unconstitutional. High Court Senior advocate Girish Patel said, “Indian constitution has given every citizen the freedom of expression and at the same time, it has also given us the freedom to not express. You cannot force someone to speak or write anything against their faith or wish. If any student seeking admission in the said institute is denied that following his/her not writing Bharat Mata Ki Jai, it will be breach of freedom of religion/ expression. A few years ago, Gujarat government had issued a circular, making Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools. It had to withdraw it later as it was challenged in the court.”