As soon as the results for class 10 board examinations were announced, a Sangh Parivar school and a Muslim boy celebrated in unison. Sarfaraz Hussein has scored 590 out of 600 in these exams, making his school, Shankardev Shishu Niketan, swell with pride.
As odd as it may sound, Hussein’s father proudly appreciates a Vidya Bharti affiliated school’s quality education. He says he is unperturbed by the fact that its a Sangh Parivar school and admits he would rather be known as an Assamese than a Muslim.
My daughter graduated from the same school three years ago. When I first took them there, the headmaster asked me if I was sure about this step. He said they would have to chant various slokas, including the gayatri mantra and saraswati vandana. I agreed, because I was more interested in quality education that shapes character.
Sarfaraz has been topping his Sanskrit exams for most of his years in school. He has also won a number of awards in Sanskrit essay-writing and debate competitions. He says he has no problem in chanting mantras in Sanskrit.
Hussain hails from Patharughat in Darrang district, which has a history of revolting against the British.
When our forefathers could lay down their lives alongside our Hindu neighbours fighting the British, I don’t see any reason why my children should not attend this school. Aren’t children of families belonging to various faiths going to schools run by Christian missionaries?
In a multi-diverse country called ”religiously intolerant”, as we fight for the instilling a feeling of belonging in the students of this country (case in point, JNU, Kashmir University), such ideas have a sweet fragrance to them.
The Assam Education Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, admits that it is important to imbibe Indian values and belonging among students from the beginning. This indeed is the reason behind Sangh Parivar’s plans of opening up many more such schools.
At least, somewhere far off in the east, we are doing things the way they should be. Keeping politics and religion separate from education, Sarfaraz’s story is an inspiration to people caught up in 65 year old battle. Maybe it’s time we talk about the future, rather than the past?