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Hindu Mob Vandalises Catholic School In Telangana

In a shocking incident in Telangana’s Mancherial district, where a mob vandalized a local school following a dispute over some students wearing ‘Hanuman Deeksha dress’.

Allegedly, teachers at Mother Teresa School prevented students dressed in saffron attire from entering the classroom as a part of a 21-day religious observance. Subsequently, parents filed a complaint, resulting in a case registered against the school correspondent and principal under sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code, under which people who promote hostility between different groups based on religion,
race, place of birth, residence, language, caste, or community.

Section 153A also covers promoting or attempting to promote hatred or disharmony. Section 295A punishes people who maliciously insult or attempt to insult a religion or the religious feelings of a group of people.

The school management countered these claims, asserting that the principal had only asked the students to bring their parents after noticing that they were not wearing the school uniform.

However, tensions escalated as a group of villagers belonging to another community gathered outside the school, demanding action against the management for allegedly barring students from attending their annual examinations due to their attire. The situation took a violent turn when protesters reportedly entered the school premises and vandalized property, leaving shattered windows and broken flower pots in their wake.

How the whole incident took place

On April 16th, a Hindutva group chanting “Jai Shri Ram” unleashed violence upon a Catholic school and assaulted a priest in Telangana’s Mancherial district. The targeted institution was St. Mother Teresa English Medium School, located in Kannepally village. The aggression didn’t spare Father Jaimon Joseph, the school manager, who fell victim to physical assaults. Recounting the ordeal, Father Joseph, a member of the
Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS) disclosed how he was subjected to slaps, punches, and attacks by the unruly mob.

The primary grievance cited by the mob was the alleged prohibition imposed by the school management on Hindu students wearing their religious attire. However, school authorities refute these claims, asserting that the accusations are misleading.

Then, a student uploaded a video online, accusing both the principal and the priest of obstructing Hindu students from wearing religious attire. The video swiftly spread across social media platforms.

Despite the school management filing a complaint with the local police, no arrests have been made thus far. Shockingly, the police, instead of apprehending the culprits behind the violence, have registered a case against the school management, alleging hurt to religious sentiments.

This is not the first time religious practices have caused trouble in educational institutions; in 2022, the Karnataka High Court upheld restrictions on Muslim women wearing hijabs in educational institutions, stating that wearing the headscarf is not considered an “essential religious practice” in Islam.

This pivotal decision emerged from the court’s response to the primary question posed, which subsequently formed the foundation of its judgment. The court dismissed petitions challenging an order issued by
the Government Pre-University (PU) College for Girls in Udupi, which prohibited the wearing of hijabs. Additionally, the court supported the Karnataka government’s order dated February 5th, which endorsed
the restriction.

Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” However, the court emphasized that this right is not absolute and is subject to considerations such as public order, morality, health, and other fundamental rights. The determination of what constitutes an “essential religious practice” is crucial, as only such practices are protected under the Constitution.

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Over the years, courts have employed various approaches to assess the essentiality of religious practices. Some have referenced religious texts, while others have relied on the behaviour of followers or the historical existence of the practice in question. The origins of this test can be traced back to the debates of the Constituent Assembly, often attributed to a speech by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. This ruling sets a precedent for future cases involving the intersection of religious practices and constitutional rights, shaping the discourse on religious freedoms in India’s educational institutions.

However, according to Article 28(1) of the Constitution of India, schools funded by the state cannot provide religious instruction except for schools established under a trust or endowment that requires religious instruction. The Constitution’s drafting committee said that imposing religion through the educational system violates Article 19, which gives citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, schools cannot endorse or advance a particular religion, and they also cannot inhibit the expression of religious belief.

Is it ethically acceptable or advisable for students to enter school premises dressed in ‘Religious attires’ instead of their prescribed school uniforms? If yes, then what is the purpose of uniforms?

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