The principal of a private school named the Keshav Smriti Higher Secondary School in Goa who took students to a mosque in Dabolim on the pretext of a school workshop, has been suspended. The principal is accused of making the students offer namaz in the mosque and do other Islamic activities. Hindu organizations raised objections over the incident and said that one organization linked to the banned Islamist, terrorist organization, Popular Front of India (PFI) was behind organizing the event of calling school students to the mosque.
The members of the Hindu organization stated that the program was part of a plot to brainwash young children and carry out religious conversions.
The State Education Department has also taken cognizance of the event and has sought answers from the school management on this incident that is said to have happened on Saturday, September 9. The incident took place involving Class 11 students of the school in Alto-Dabolim.
#TenseSituation– Hindu groups gather at a school in Dabolim after Students allegedly taken to Masjid and made to perform Muslim rituals#Goa #GoaNews #Hindu #gather #school #students #taken #Masjid pic.twitter.com/HTrOILP9PJ
— In Goa 24×7 (@InGoa24x7) September 11, 2023
According to reports, on Monday (11 September 2023), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) lodged a police complaint against Shankar Gaonkar, the principal of the private school named Keshav Smriti Higher Secondary. The complaint mentioned that Shankar had taken the students with him to Masjid-E-Noor in Dabolim.
The program was organized at the Mosque by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. As per the VHP members, the organizer of the event has links to the PFI. It is alleged that in this program the students were not only made to offer Namaz, but also the girl students were pressurized to wear hijab. However, the girl students refused to wear the hijab.
According to the complaint, several Maulanas delivered speeches in the program held in the mosque. Around 22 students were brought to the Mosque under the pretext of some workshop. Apart from Keshav Smriti School, students from a government school had also been invited to the event held in the mosque. The program organized was named ‘Masjid Open for All’ (Masjid is open to all). Hindu organizations further have also revealed that the now-suspended Principal, Shankar Gaonkar, is involved in anti-national activities. They also reiterated that the organizer of the said program is associated with PFI.
Upon becoming aware of the event, Shailesh Jhingade, Director of the Directorate of Education, requested an explanation from the school administration. Principal Shankar Gaonkar has been suspended, according to the school’s managing president, Pandurang Korganokar. He has also apologized to Hindu organizations claiming that the intention of the school behind taking the students to the Mosque was not ill.
Suspended Gaonkar meanwhile has also clarified the allegations leveled against him. He has described it as an action done to foster communal peace. “On the invitation of the Student Islamic Organisation of India (SIO), a visit to a mosque in Dabolim was organized to promote communal harmony. Students of a government school from Baina had also been invited. A total of 21 students from our school, including three girl students and a teacher, were taken to the mosque. Students were shown where the prayers were conducted and entry-exit areas at the mosque. Some students may have covered their heads out of respect. The claim that students were forced to wear hijab or perform rituals is false,” he was quoted as saying.
Shankar Gaonkar Principal of HSS based in Dabolim suspended for allegedly taking students to Islamic workshop at a Masjid & making Girl students wear Hijab; workshop organised by Islamic students org & not as per Edu Dept circular; VHP terms workshop 'School Jihad'#principal pic.twitter.com/expb8j7wwJ
— In Goa 24×7 (@InGoa24x7) September 11, 2023
“In the past also, we have organized visits of students to temples, churches, and mosques. Children from all faiths study at the school. Some students from another school had also visited the mosque. I do not know why I have been suspended,” he added.
The event was organized by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the parent body of the Student Islamic Organisation of India (SIO). Asif Hussain, the Goa President of this organization, stated that students visit the Noor Masjid of their own free will. According to Asif, the students were shown the part of the mosque where prayers are offered. He admitted that the students were offered sweets in the Mosque but called the allegation of forcing the children to attend the event as baseless.
“A workshop had been organized for students at Masjid-E-Noor in Dabolim as part of our routine initiatives to promote communal harmony and for a better understanding between communities. Such events at the mosque have been an annual feature and often students visit of their own accord. The school students were shown the area where prayers are conducted and they were given sweets. All these claims of religious conversion are baseless,” he said.
The VHP members stated that the program was part of a plot to brainwash young children and carry out religious conversions. “The principal did not inform parents of the students or seek their permission for the workshop. We have been informed that at least two students had refused to go, but they were taken forcibly. Some photos of school children performing rituals at the mosque and wearing hijab have been circulating on social media. We have lodged a complaint with the police,” he said.