School children participate in yoga exercises in Chennai June 21, after the BJP government in New Delhi began to promote it in schools across India. (Photo by IANS)
A pro-Hindu politician in central India has asked school students to register their presence in classes by saying Jai Hind (hail India), a slogan Christians says is a move to exclude religious minorities and foster Hindu nationalism.Kunwar Vijay Shah, Madhya Pradesh state education minister, has ordered government schools in Satna district to replace the current "Yes sir or yes mam" with the new term for students to respond when their names are called out to mark their attendance.
Jai Hind is commonly used across India as a slogan at the end of the national anthem. Politicians, cutting across party lines, also use it at the end their speeches. However, the Hind is a shortened form of Hindustan (land of Hindus), which excludes India's religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims. The official Hindi word for India is Bharat, not Hind or Hindustan.
Shah's order is to come into effect Oct. 1, warned of serious repercussions against those schools not following it.
Shah, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seen as the political arm Hindu groups that wants to make India a Hindu-only nation, said if successful it will be implemented in other 50 districts of the state. The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003.
"It is not good for a healthy democracy to force such orders on students," said Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar, who heads the education commission of the regional bishops' council.
He said church schools have not received any written instruction from the government although he saw the minister's order published in local media. He said Catholic schools will think about its implementation after receiving the order.
Secular activists have been accusing the BJP of promoting the Hindu culture to mark patriotism, ever since the BJP came to power to form the federal government in New Delhi in 2014. Those opposing such cultural hegemony have been projected as people opposed to the country, creating tensions.
Muslim leader Maulana Umar Quasmi in Madhya Pradesh said the patriotism clamor stresses that only those who adhere to Hindu nationalism are true patriots and others have no place in the country.
Father Maria Stephen, public relation officer of the regional bishops' council, said it is sad that people have to prove their patriotism by shouting certain slogans. "This is more or less a cultural invasion," he said.
Christians make up 0.3 percent of some 73 million people in Madhya Pradesh.