A school in West Bengal’s Hooghly district has stirred up controversy by asking Class 10 students appearing for a Bengali test questions about chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and cut-money, the Hindustan Times reported on Friday.
The two matters have dominated headlines in the state since May. While a number of people across the country, mostly Muslims, have been beaten by mobs and coerced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, several Trinamool Congress leaders have been accused of taking “cut money”, or bribes, from people for government schemes. The BJP, which is in the ascendant in the state, made “Jai Shri Ram” a rallying cry against the Mamata Banerjee government, accusing it of cracking down on its supporters for raising the slogan.
Students at Akna Union High School, 55 km from Kolkata, were on Thursday asked to write a journalistic report on the “harmful effects on the society of chanting Jai Shri Ram” or the “bold step of the government to stop corruption by returning cut money”. In June, Mamata Banerjee had warned party leaders that anyone caught taking a bribe would be arrested. She had also asked the leaders to return any “cut money” they had taken from the people of their area.
“The exam started at 2 pm and it was scheduled to be over at 3.45 pm,” Rohit Kumar Pyne, teacher in-charge of the school, told The New Indian Express. “When we came to know about it, only five minutes were left and many students had already written the answers. We cancelled the two questions and decided to give all the students, including those who did not answer the questions, average marks.”
Pyne admitted it was wrong to ask students the two questions. “The questions were selected by Bangla language teacher Subhasish Ghosh,” he claimed. “I was not aware of the questions selected for Class X students.” Ghosh refused to comment on the matter.
The school is located in Akna gram panchayat, which is a Trinamool Congress stronghold. Nirmal Ghosh, the deputy head of panchayat, said schoolchildren should not have been asked to answer such political questions.
However, the BJP’s organisational president in Hooghly, Subir Nag, said it was not a mistake. “The two questions were selected deliberately,” he added. “A section of teachers in the school is acting at the behest of the ruling party and dividing students politically. This is unacceptable and we will take up the issue with higher authorities of the school education department.”