The Uttar Pradesh government’s order to schools in Faizabad district to prepare their students to participate in Chief Minister Adityanath’s “Chhoti Diwali” programme in Ayodhya on October 18 has evoked protest from teachers.

Members of the Dr Ambedkar Madhyamik Shiksha Sewa Samiti, an organisation of mostly Dalit teachers with members from across the state, have claimed this is an “unconstitutional” and “unscientific” order that would promote superstition among children.

“Making it mandatory for children to participate in the programme of one particular religion is highly unreasonable,” the Samiti said in a statement signed by its president Ram Subhav Lalit on October 15. “Students have been instructed to present themselves in costumes of monkeys and demons. Such unscientific and illogical demonstration will have very adverse effect on the impressionable mind of children. Teaching has totally stopped for last few days because of this programme.”

Dr Ambedkar Madhyamik Shiksha Sewa Samiti's statement says 'making it mandatory for children to participate in the programme of one particular religion is highly unreasonable'.
Dr Ambedkar Madhyamik Shiksha Sewa Samiti's statement says 'making it mandatory for children to participate in the programme of one particular religion is highly unreasonable'.

As a part of Adityanath’s programme, children representing the armies of Ram and Ravan will take out a large procession in Ayodhya. To be led by a chariot carrying actors playing Ram, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman, the procession is scheduled to start from Saket Degree College at around 2 pm and conclude at Ram Katha Park by 4 pm.

At Ram Katha, the chief minister is scheduled to “coronate Lord Rama”, and then announce development projects for Ayodhya.

Faizabad’s District Inspector of Schools issued a circular early this month directing the principals of state-aided secondary and higher secondary schools to prepare their students to take part in the procession.

Students rehearse for the procession in Ayodhya. Photo credit: Dhirendra Jha
Students rehearse for the procession in Ayodhya. Photo credit: Dhirendra Jha

Individual institutions have issued their own instructions to make sure the event goes off as planned. For instance, the principal of Manohar Lal Moti Lal Inter College, Ashok Kumar Tripathi, has asked his teachers to get to school school by 11 am on October 18, and the students even earlier. To ensure that no teacher or student skips the event, they have been informed that attendance will be taken not in the school but at Saket College, from where the procession will start.

“All teachers are informed that as per the order of DIOS the school has to take out its tableau in the programme of honourable Chief Minister on 18-10-2017,” the principal’s instruction reads. “All of you must, therefore, reach the school by 11 am, and all will march with the tableau from Saket...Students who will take part in the tableau will come to school at 9 am.”

Regular classwork in almost all government-aided schools in Faizabad has stopped as both teachers and students are busy preparing for the procession. On October 16, students from all participating schools were take to Ayodhya for a full rehearsal. As the children walked along, they shouted slogans such as “Ram naam ka nara hai, Bharat desh hamara hai”. Ram’s name resounds here, India is our country.

Students rehearse for the procession in Ayodhya. Photo credit: Dhirendra Jha
Students rehearse for the procession in Ayodhya. Photo credit: Dhirendra Jha