The Aam Aadmi Party and Congress have criticised an order by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation asking its schools to make students recite the Gayatri Mantra during the morning assembly, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. The civic body is under the control of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and runs schools up to Class 5.

“These are state-funded schools and state cannot impose any one particular religious belief irrespective of whether one is Hindu, Muslim or Christian,” said Aam Aadmi Party’s Anil Lakra, the leader of the Opposition in the civic body. He said such orders cannot be issued when children of all religions study in schools.

Congress leader Mukesh Goyal told the newspaper: “The learning level is such that several students are unable to identify English and Hindi letters. So instead of making them learn Gayatri Mantra, they should first focus on making them learn English and Hindi letters and words.”

In its circular on September 6, the civic body had said students should recite the Gayatri Mantra, the national anthem, and songs of national pride during the assembly. However, Ritu Goel, the chairperson of education committee in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, said reciting the Gayatri Mantra was not compulsory.

The circular also asked schools to read out the news, give personal hygiene lessons and physical training for students during the assembly.

Over 2 lakh students are enrolled in 765 schools run by the North Delhi civic body, according to The Indian Express.