Ban on Hindu Symbols - Talibanic diktat of Ramnad Collector

  • By B R Gauthaman
  • January 2014

Students  sporting tilak on their foreheads and amulets on their bodies were stopped by the  Physical Instruction teacher of a Government-aided minority  institution before they entered the school premises. The sacred  threads and rakshas (amulets) worn for protection round the necks or arms were cut off,  and the sindoor,  tilak on the foreheads erased.

When  agitated parents rushed to complain to Ms. Zarina Lotus, headmistress  of the Muhammadiya Higher Secondary School, Sitharkottai,  Ramanathapuram district, she reportedly claimed to be implementing  the diktat of the District Collector, as per the version of Shri Ramesh (name  changed), father of one of the affected children. The agitated  parents accompanied by Shri Prabhakaran, district head of Hindu  Makkal Katchi, met District Collector K Nandakumar and complained  about the incident. But the District Collector not only justified his  order, but challenged them to take the matter to the courts, as per  the version reported by the Hindu Makkal Katchi leader.

Intrigued,  the writer and some public minded citizens contacted headmistress  Zarina Lotus over the telephone on January 21, 2014, and she again  claimed that she was only obeying the orders of the District  Collector. Ms. Lotus claimed that during a meeting of headmasters of  high schools and higher secondary schools, the Collector had stated  that the teachers should advise the students not to sport sacred  threads or apply tilak or sport any object that would represent their religion. We sought to  know the reason why the Collector would issue such an order.

The  headmistress replied that since students come to school sporting  religious symbols, at times quarrels ensue, and hence some students  have been sent to Reformation Schools. Policemen in mufti who have been keeping watch on the trouble had reported that the raison  d'etre behind these quarrels were the religious symbols; they listed the  schools where such incidents had occurred.

Accordingly,  we sent an e-mail to Shri K Nandakumar on January 22, but have  received no reply till the time of writing. His personal assistant,  Shri Dharman, said the District Collector was busy and could be  contacted later, and disconnected the telephone. Subsequent attempts  to contact him failed.

The  actions of the District Collector raise certain pertinent questions.  If there is no protection for the students sporting religious  symbols, has Ramanathapuram become Afghanistan? If the order covers  all religious symbols, why did the District Collector not advise  removal of skull caps and veils? Sporting of religious symbols is a  fundamental right. Who gave the District Collector the license to  snatch this right?

As  citizens, we have a right to know exactly which schools experienced  clashes on the issue of students sporting religious symbols. Were  these troubles spontaneous or instigated? And who were the students  sent to the Reformation Schools? Did the school authorities take any  action to prevent the clashes, and were any teachers associated with  these occurrences?

If  we presume that the District Collector’s action reflects an  admittance of extreme intolerance in the Ramanathapuram, what action  has Shri Nandakumar taken against those indulging in religious  extremism and those who have instigated or supported such incidents?  Is the Collector admitting that he cannot protect Hindu students in  the district?

Can  Shri Nandakumar next order the snapping of the mangalsutra of Hindu women? Has the situation in Ramanathapuram really  degenerated to such a level that Taliban-style rules are being  implemented here, at par with countries like Pakistan and  Afghanistan? The Government is duty-bound to stop the terrorization  and victimization of young students, rather than caving in cravenly  to irrational demands smacking of cultural jihad.

Instead,  it has resorted to appeasement. There is a ban on beating of drums in  Amman temples, and the traditional routes of temple processions are  frequently changed. When Hindus protested against the slaying of a  cow near a temple in Azhagan Kulam village, a case was filed against  the Hindus!

On  the other hand, no action was taken against those who broke the  memorial pillar of Swami Vivekananda in the district. There was no  punitive action against those who hoisted the national flag tied to  slippers in village Pudhumadam. The signboards announcing a ban on  non-Muslims entering the village and banning the playing of songs by  vehicles on public roads have not been removed. No action was taken  against fundamentalists from the area and other States who underwent  arms training at Periyapatnam.

The  cumulative impact of all these developments, according to the local  people, is that Ramanathapuram is fast turning into a mini-Kashmir.  What is most hurtful about the whole episode is that the district  administration that is responsible for the prevention of such  atrocities is supportive of these destructive forces.

Both  the Central and State Governments need to wake up to the dangerous  conditions prevailing in Ramanathapuram and take steps on a war  footing to save the district from succumbing to separatist and  fundamentalist forces. Hindus too must raise their voices against the  injustices being meted out to Hindus of Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.

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