A police case has been filed against 11 members of a management committee of a school in Madhya Pradesh for allegedly forcing students to wear hijab while attending school.
The incident has been reported from Ganga Jamna Higher Secondary School in Damoh district, some 250 km from capital Bhopal.
The members of the management committee of the government-aided minority school, consisting of nine Muslims and two non-Muslims, were charged by the Damoh Kotwali police under Indian Penal Code Section 295 (damaging or defiling any object held as sacred by any class of persons) and 506 (criminal intimidation), as well as provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act on Wednesday.
"The high-powered committee had taken statements from some students of the school. Based on the committee's recommendations, the local police registered an FIR against the 11 members of the school's management committee. Additional sections may be added to the FIR as the investigation progresses in the coming days," said Rakesh Singh, Superintendent of Police, Damoh.
According to sources within the Damoh police, the FIR was filed based on statements from at least three students, two girls and a boy, studying in Class VI and Class VIII.
All three students were Hindus. The girl students claimed that the school management compelled them to wear the hijab while inside the school premises.
Additionally, all three students stated that they were forced to remove the sacred thread (Kalawa) from their wrists and the religious mark (tilak) from their foreheads. They were also forced to recite Allama Iqbal's poem "Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Banke Tamanna" during the morning prayers.
The FIR was registered a few hours after the state's home minister, Narottam Mishra, informed journalists in Bhopal that he had instructed the Damoh district police to file an FIR against the school.
The angle of religious conversion would also be investigated, said the Minister.
Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School already faces a probe for allegedly making non-Muslim girl students wear the 'hijab'.
Earlier, the school in Damoh district had released a poster of its board exam toppers in which some girls, who are not Muslims, are seen wearing scarves. The poster was widely shared on social media, alleging the girls were forced by the school to wear the hijab.
The matter was subsequently flagged to the Damoh district collector by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Priyank Kanoongo.
Right wing groups including the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the ABVP protested in Damoh, accusing the Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School of forcing non-Muslim girl students to wear the hijab.
The district collector said they got the NCPCR complaint on May 30 and the Damoh district education officer met the families of the students. The officer said no parent has given a complaint.
Despite the findings of the investigation, the protests by Hindu right-wing groups continued.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ordered a fresh probe by the Damoh district administration, leading to the formation of a high-powered committee to reinvestigate the matter.
Just five days prior, the Madhya Pradesh government suspended the school's recognition due to violations of state government rules regarding the recognition of secondary and higher secondary schools.
The Minister of School Education, IS Parmar, also ordered the removal of the Damoh district education officer from his position for providing a clean chit to the school without a thorough investigation.
The Minister also alleged that the role of the district collector was "questionable" after the incident.
On Tuesday some ruling party workers allegedly threw ink on the face of the DEO, SK Mishra, accusing him of giving a clean chit to the administration of the Ganga Jamna Higher Secondary School after the controversy.