The West Bengal government has issued notices to shut some 125 schools, alleging that they were run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the state’s education minister Partha Chatterjee said on Tuesday.
The state will not allow schools to teach violence, the minister said, adding that the 125 schools identified to be shut did not have necessary clearance from the education department to be in operation. He had previously said some of these allegedly RSS-backed schools were spreading religious intolerance.
Notices have already been issued to these schools to wind down, according to Chatterjee. Complaints have been received against some 500 such schools and at least 493 of them are under scanner, he said.
One Vivekananda Vidyavikas Parishad, a society, runs 12 of these 125 schools. Its organising secretary Tarak Das Sarkar said the state’s notice to them had already been challenged in the Calcutta high court.
The society had applied for clearance from the government to run these schools back in 2012, but the state hasn’t still granted it, Sarkar said. His society is affiliated to Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Siksha Sansthan, an organisation which claims on its website that its aim is to “build a generation… committed to Hindutva and infused with patriotic fervour”.
RSS denied having anything to do with these schools under the state’s scanner. Biplab Ray, a spokesperson, said it wasn’t the RSS’s mandate to run schools. “The state should pay attention at the madrasas instead, and check what they teach,” said Ray.
According to Sarkar, schools run by his society date back to 1975. The state had no problem with them until in 2012 it amended laws making it mandatory for all schools seek a no-objection certificate from the education department.
The notice issued by the state seeking closure of these schools does not indicate any problem with the curriculum, claimed Sarkar. The notices have only pointed out deficiencies in infrastructure such as fire safety, he added.
Arijit Bakshi, legal counsel for a trust which runs 111 schools in North Dinajpur district, said the state had issued notices seeking to shut 10 of these schools.
But these notices were challenged in the Calcutta high court, and have been quashed, he claimed. The trust claimed that the district inspector of education did not have the authority to issue such notices, and its contention was upheld by the Calcutta high court, he added.