A circular issued by the education department in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam has stoked a controversy as students were told to pay Rs 20 towards the government’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. The circular was issued by Chadoora zonal education officer (ZEO) to all schools in the area on July 16, directing the heads of these institutions to collect the money from every student and staff member for the campaign launched as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
“As per the directions from the Chief Education Officer Budgam, all the HOIs (heads of institutions) of this zone are asked to collect Rs 20 per head from the students and the staff members of the school to deposit the same in ZEO office within four days,” the circular read. “In case of more than one student belonging to same family, charges from only student be collected as per instructions,” it said.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former MLA from Chrar-e-Sharief Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura posted a copy of the circular on social media and questioned the administration for making the contribution “compulsory”. “Sad to see such orders being issued which contradict Div Com’s (Divisional Commissioner’s) statement that ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ is totally a voluntary movement and there is no compulsion & insistence in it. Admin must realize that nationalism comes naturally & can’t be imposed through the barrel of a gun,” Hanjura tweeted.
Budgam deputy chief education officer Inderjeet Singh, however, said the circular was issued erroneously and the contribution is voluntary. He said the zonal education officer concerned has already issued a corrigendum to the circular. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti had on Sunday posted a video on Twitter in which employees of an urban body in Anantnag were purportedly making announcements on a public address system asking the shopkeepers to contribute Rs 20 each for the flag in order to “avoid trouble”.
“We appeal to the shopkeepers to deposit Rs 20 with the municipal body, which issues the trade license to you, by 12.00 noon on Monday. This is under the order of district administration Anantnag for the Har Ghar Tiranga movement launched by the government. Those who do not deposit these Rs 20 might face action for it So, to save the trouble, we appeal to you to deposit the amount,” the shopkeepers were allegedly told. “The manner in which J&K admin is forcing students, shopkeepers & employees to pay for national flag to hoist it is as if Kashmir is an enemy territory that needs to be captured. Patriotism comes naturally & can’t be imposed,” Mehbooba had tweeted with the video.
Hanjura also questioned the administration’s decision to shut down two schools in Lal Chowk on Monday to facilitate Vijay Diwas Tiranga Yatra taken out by the BJP. “Roads leading to Ghanta Ghar, Lal Chowk have been blocked, shops shut & a school (Tyndale Biscoe & Mallinson) in the vicinity too has been shut on a Monday just so that a political party can showcase their nationalism. The claims of ‘change’ & ‘normalcy’ post 2019 stand exposed,” he tweeted.