JAIPUR (Web Desk) – In the middle of a row over BJP-ruled states imposing a meat ban for a Jain fasting festival, a government order in Rajasthan has stirred more controversy.
Days after announcing a meat ban, Rajasthan has ordered schools and colleges to prepare for blood donation camps on September 25, to mark the birth anniversary of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, an icon of the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The day coincides with the Muslim festival of Eidul Azha, which is a holiday, but will not be this time, the Times of India reported.
Muslims groups in Rajasthan have threatened to move the High Court against the order, saying it would mean cancellation of a national holiday for thousands of Muslim employees.
The government order dated 2nd September directs principals of all government as well as private colleges to not grant leave to any staff member on 24th September.
The order, which has drawn sharp reactions from the opposition, also restrains college staff from leaving the college headquarters around the time.
“This is a clear violation of human rights of Muslim employees. Eid-ul-Azha is the biggest festival for Muslims and an official event that day would deny people from celebrating it,” says Salim Engineer, national secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
“They are saying it is voluntary but how can that be when there are clear orders to not grant leave. We will meet the chief secretary about this and also file a writ petition in the High Court,” he said.
The opposition Congress slammed the government’s move, saying the BJP was unnecessarily creating grounds for confrontation in secular spheres like education.
“The decision is malafide in nature. Deendaya Upadhyay was never a part of the government. If the BJP wants to celebrate his birth anniversary, they should do it at the party level. Why are they denying leave to Muslims on an important festival which is a gazetted holiday,” former chief minister Ashok Gehlot told The Indian Express.
Secular teachers associations too, criticised the government’s order.
“The BJP government clearly wants to saffronise education. Deen Dayal Upadhyay subscribed to a particular ideology, that of Hindutva. Why does the government want to impose it on everyone,” Prakash Mishra, spokesperson of the Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh (Shekhawat) said.
The government however defended its decision saying participation in the event would be voluntary.
“The blood donation exercise would be completely voluntary and no student would be forced to come to college that day,” Commissioner, College Education, Rajendra Prasad Sharma told The Indian Express.
But what about the “no leave for staff” order?
“Well if some staff member wishes to avail leave that day, he or she is free to do that, provided they seek permission from the principal,” Sharma said.
This is the latest controversy surrounding an announcement made by Rajasthan’s Education Department, which had earlier drawn criticism for making ‘Surya namaskar’, a yoga asana, compulsory in all government schools.
Nearly ninety percent of Rajasthan’s population (73,529,325) is Hindu with Muslims making up the largest minority with eight percent of the populations. Jains – the merchant and traders from Rajasthan constitute a significant presence.