Tilak in Schools Creates Communal Strife in UP’s Muzaffarnagar District


Muslim parents object to the application of tilak on Muslim students’ foreheads

Team Clarion

MUZAFFARNAGAR – A recent incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar District has sparked considerable tension, highlighting the sensitive nature of religious practices in schools. Members of the Hindu majority have been accused of imposing their customs on the minority community, culminating in a dispute over the application of tilak — a traditional Hindu mark — on Muslim students’ foreheads.

After the summer vacation, schools affiliated with the UP Board and CBSE reopened on Monday. As part of the welcoming ceremony, students were greeted with tilak and garlands, accompanied by band music. This tradition was observed in Government Inter College (GIC) in the village of Kawal, where students, including those from the Muslim community, were adorned with the tilak.

The sight of their children bearing the Hindu mark sparked anger among Muslim parents. They swiftly gathered at the school to express their discontent, leading to a heated confrontation. “We are Muslims, and such practices are not part of our faith. Forcing this upon our children is unacceptable,” stated Muhammad Naeem, a parent. “It is very sad, and we oppose this strongly. It shouldn’t have happened.”

The situation escalated as parents proceeded to the local police station, demanding action against the school principal. The principal, Ranveer Singh, was summoned to address the complaints. Singh explained that the tilak application was part of a government directive aimed at welcoming students and was not intended to offend any religious sentiments. “All children in the school are equal. There was no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings,” he assured. “Muslim students will not be applied tilak in the future.”

The police managed to defuse the tension by reassuring the parents and obtaining a commitment from the principal to respect religious sensitivities henceforth. Despite this, the incident has left a lasting impression, fueling debates about cultural imposition and religious freedom in educational institutions.

In another case in Hapur, educational officials faced backlash for welcoming students with tilak and flowers. Parents cleaned the tilak off the forehead of their children upon learning about the practice. The District Inspector of Schools (DIOS), PK Upadhyay, cited a government order for the welcoming ceremony but failed to produce the document when requested. This led to further suspicion and anger among the Muslim community.

The series of events has prompted calls for the government to respect the religious practices of all communities. The application of tilak, while a benign and traditional gesture in Hindu culture, is seen by many as an imposition on non-Hindu students. “They are trying to play with our faith by force,” commented a concerned parent in Hapur. “The administration should take strict notice of this and ensure such incidents do not recur.”

The Muzaffarnagar incident underscores the need for sensitivity and respect in a diverse society. While traditions and customs are essential to cultural identity, imposing them on others can lead to resentment and division. Educational institutions, in particular, must be mindful of their diverse student populations and strive to create an inclusive environment that respects all beliefs.

The controversy also highlights the broader issue of religious freedom in India, where the majority Hindu community’s practices sometimes clash with those of minority groups. Ensuring harmony in such a pluralistic society requires careful consideration and respect for all cultural and religious practices.

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