New Delhi: A group of former students from New Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya have written an open letter to the school questioning the decision to invite Union home minister Amit Shah to the school as chief guest on Sardar Patel Jayanti.
In the letter sent to the school principal, Anuradha Joshi, and the Gujarat Education Society which runs the school, 237 alumni stated: “Particularly in the current climate of polarisation, inviting a political figure of his ilk will make the school vulnerable to criticism and will undermine its ethos, that stands for the Constitution and pluralism. This current climate of hate and violence spewing through the country has been responsible for the flagrant disregard of constitutional values.”
“We are a school that encourages questioning, democratic ideals of dissent, argument and debate. We write to you from this place of warmth and the unwavering commitment to democracy that the school has imparted to us,” the letter continues. The letter has been endorsed by more former students after being sent.
Over 230 alumni of #SardarPatelVidyalaya have written to the school & its management to protest the invitation to Home Min #AmitShah as chief guest for Sardar Patel Jayanti tomorrow, saying it goes against the ethos of the school. pic.twitter.com/iX8LCgMw04
— Anya Shankar (@AnyaShankar) October 30, 2022
The letter also brings up the fact that Sardar Patel himself had banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party of which Shah is a member – and so despite the BJP’s attempts to claim Patel’s legacy, he would not have agreed with the politics of today:
“As a senior leader of the BJP — the political front of the RSS — Amit Shah stands in opposition to the ideals of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, that have been inculcated in us by SPV.
“Despite attempts by the BJP to appropriate Patel in the recent years, it would be prudent to remember that he had banned the RSS in 1948 after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination while he was the home minister. In a communiqué issued on Feb 4, 1948, the Government of India had said it was banning the organisation ‘to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation’. It also said that ‘undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh’ and that several RSS members ‘indulged in acts of violence’.
“The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself, the government had then said.
“In a letter to Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee written on July 18, 1948, with regard to Gandhi ji’s assassination, Patel had said that ‘activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State’. If this was not enough, on September 11, 1948, Patel made his views explicitly clear when he wrote to M.S. Golwalkar stating that ‘all their (RSS) speeches were full of communal poison’ and that ‘it was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection’.
“In his speech at the Island Grounds in Madras on February 23, 1949, he spoke on dealing with the RSS. ‘They want that there should be Hindu Rajya or Hindu culture should be imposed by force. No government can tolerate this. There are almost as many Muslims in this country as in the part that has been partitioned away. We are not going to drive them away. It would be an evil day if we started that game…’
“It is abundantly clear from the above examples that the politics of the current ruling party represented by Amit Shah is at complete variance with the ideology of Sardar Patel, and therefore goes against the very ethos of what this school and this country stand for. Our Vidyalaya has taught us to respect diversity as we were encouraged to celebrate all festivals during morning assemblies, develop a curiosity for difference and the ability to learn from it.
“Our teachers encouraged critical thinking and radical imaginations to constantly fill us with hope and courage to speak truth to power. The choice of the chief guest undoes and undermines the spirit of the Vidyalaya, where we have always looked towards knowledge as a form of light that guides us towards justice, equality, and peace.”
This article was first published on The Wire.