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An In-sight into the PIL to Review Kendriya Vidyalaya Prayer

An In-sight into the PIL to Review Kendriya Vidyalaya Prayer. Is the Prayer Hindu or Is It Indian

Asato ma sadgamaya
Tamaso ma jyotigarmaya
Mrtyorma amrtam gamaya

These are the words of the morning prayer of Kendriya Vidyalayas which the thousands of students of Kendriya Vidyalaya sing every morning they go to school. Prayers are a part of people of India. You cannot separate prayer and Indians. Being born and brought up in Indian society by Indian parents we are taught to pray before every good things we do because it is said that we need God’s blessings before we do anything good. So is this concept in school in which we consider education and studies as a good thing and definitely it is. I personally thank God as I belong to those privileged children in India whose parents can afford quality education for me or rather education at all.

The question in the whole petition filed by Madhya Pradesh advocate Vinayak Shah is whether in accordance to Article 28(1) of the Constitution of India, “can the religious instructions be provided in the education institutions fully maintained out of state funds”? The morning prayer of Kendriya Vidyalaya is in Sanskrit and has been borrowed from Mahabharata .The students of Kendriya Vidyalaya are compulsorily to recite the prayer every morning in school with closed eyes, joined hands and heads bowed down. And if any student does not do so then he or she is taken to task by the teacher.

The writ has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, and Supreme Court has also referred this matter to the constitutional bench which means that this is a matter of utmost importance that needs to be tackled by the Judiciary. It challenges the secular nature of the government.

The whole question here is that whether the language Sanskrit can be associated to the Hindu religion and is it right to do so? Another question is whether the language needs to be treated and given importance for it being an ancient language of India and a part of culture and heritage of India or should we relate it to any religion at all?

The meaning of the prayer means “from ignorance lead me to the knowledge” and “where there is justice, there is victory”. Well this is also the motto of the Supreme Court of India. And even the National Emblem of India “Satyamev Jayate” has been taken from the Mundak Upanishad. Not only them there are many other government institutions in India which include government owned companies or educational institutions which have their motto in Sanskrit. So it is not the language which should not be the issue here. Sanskrit is the language of India and is the mother of almost all the oriental language.

While making the constitution it was well in the minds of the Constitution-Makers that they didn’t want to make India an atheist state but a secular one. But the secular in India is different from the French concept of secularism. Where secularism means no religion at all, in France Sikhs cannot carry Kirpan, Muslims cannot keep long beard, Hindus cannot wear Janeu and Christians cannot wear Holy-Cross. But in India our Constitution makers could not have made a secular India like that, but they wanted a secular India which has place for every religion and even for the non-believers. So in India every religion needed to be given equal importance at the same time government needed to see that it didn’t favour any religion and keeping the rights of minorities secured.

Though the Constitution of India in Article 30 allows the minorities to establish educational institutions or any other institution of their own choice to preserve their language or culture even if they are receiving the state funds completely but that does not apply to the majority religion. But in the same manner it will also not be right to relate Sanskrit, Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata or Lord Ram or Lord Krishna with just Hinduism or relate Guru Nanak Devji with just Sikhism or Buddha with just Buddhism. All of them are inherent parts of India, Indian culture and Indian history they cannot be separated from India. We worship Goddess Saraswati as the Goddess of Knowledge, Goddess Lakshmi as the Goddess of Prosperity by whole India not just by Hindus. In the same way Buddha is worshipped for peace by the entire India. While the original Constitution was being made artists from Shanti Niketan in Calcutta were called to paint the pages of the Constitution and every page of the original hand-written Constituion was painted depicting the history of India, so a side of the page was showing Lanka –dehen and other side of the same page showing Jama Masjid of Delhi. This is the beauty of India that the people from different religions, languages and cultures live together as Indians and not as different identities.

This does not mean that the Government of India is justified in this case. The entire problem is that why is there compulsion in doing the prayer I might an atheist or any other form of non-believers or some minority religion sect which does not allows me to pray to pray by joining the hands and closing or I might not even believe in praying at all, this is just my choice. No one can force me do what I do not want to do, not even the Government of India because is the right given to me by the Constitution of India and no one can take it from me.

In the famous case of (Bijoe Emmanuel and Ors. v. Union of India) there was an Emmanuel family in Kerala whose children were in the same school, during the national anthem. They were from Jehovah Witness sect of Christianity which is very less in number, in their religion or rather in their sect they do not believe in the existence of state. People of this sect do not join state services or even the armed forces. Children of Emmanuel family refused to sing the national anthem as they considered against their sect although they used to stand in the position of the anthem and did not disturb anyone. But the school administration suspended them for this so their family challenged this decision of school administration in Kerala High Court which gave judgement in favour of school authority but later when family challenged the judgement of Kerala High Court in Supreme Court, Supreme Court overruled the Kerala High Court and gave the judgement in favour of Emmanuel family and concluded that the children of the Emmanuel family being of the Jehova Witness sect of Christianity are a minority community and thus are allowed not to sing the national anthem because they are allowed to do so according to Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Which is the article related to the rights of Freedom of Religion. And article 29 of the Constitution of India which is related to the protection of the minority communities in India and says that government cannot impose the Indian culture on certain minority communities of India because many of them are of foreign origin and certain things of the Indian culture might be against their religion. Then why is the culture being forcefully imposed on the minority communities, they are not disturbing any other communities from doing so or anything like that.

Other aspect is for the non-believers, they do not believe in God or praying but even they are forcefully made to recite the prayer in school. The prayer requests God to bring me from ignorance to knowledge. There are people who do not believe in asking all these things from God but by achieving themselves. An aspect is that it goes also against the Fundamental Duty to develop the scientific temper. Science is not completely against the existence of God but at the same time it is against anything philosophical or anything which has no existence or cannot be seen, touched or felt.

The entire problem with this PIL is that it is states that prayer is in Sanskrit so it is Hindu or it is borrowed from Mahabharata so it is Hindu but the PIL should have been against the compulsion in doing so. Compulsorily going to the assembly, compulsorily joining hands, compulsorily closing eyes and compulsorily reciting the prayer. Gone are the days when India was divided by language and religion but this is India of 21st century which knows its right, if it has got the right to do something then it also has got the right of not doing something at all. So we can conclude the prayer is Indian in its context and not just Hindu but the PIL could have been filed in a better manner based on different points and stance.

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