Amid protest, 99 children attend 'secular' Vidyarambham at Mattannur

CPI(M) leaders and Mattannur MLA KK Shailaja inaugurated the event. Photo: Special Arrangement

Kannur: Amid controversy and protests by Hindu outfits, 99 children from different communities attended the 'secular' Vidyarambham ceremony conducted by the Library Committee of Mattannur municipality in Kannur district on Tuesday.
The event was held after the High Court dismissed a petition filed against the event by Mattannur resident K R Mahadevan, who had moved the court to get the event cancelled. Among the children who attended the programme, 21 were from Muslim, two from Christian and 76 from Hindu communities, the organisers said.

CPM leader and Mattannur MLA K K Shailaja, writers Lisa Joseph, Prof. Muhammed Ahammed, Mattannur government college former principal T Kumaran Nair, and former municipal chairmen K Baskaran, P K Govindan and K P Chandran introduced the children to the world of learning. At the ceremony, the parent chose the first words to be written or recited by their children. "Most of them chose either Hari Sree Ganapathaya NamahaBismillah (In the name of god) or the first four letters of the Malayalam alphabet,” said Ramesh Babu, librarian of the municipal library.

The Municipal Library has been organising the Vidyarambham ceremony since 2014. But this year it faced stiff protest from some Hindu outfits. Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a public meeting on October 21 against the event alleging that the organisers were disrespecting the ceremony. (Hindu temples, especially those with Goddess Saraswathy as their deity, conduct the Vidyarambham ceremony.) 

Soon RSS joined the protest with its leader Valsan Thillankary raising questions on the registration form of the event. He was against the option given to the parents to choose the first words their children should write. The form provided three choices -- Harisree Ganapathaye Nama (We salute you oh Lord Ganapathy), Allahu Akbar (God is great), and Yesuve Stuti (Glory to Jesus).

It is the parent's right: HC

Mattannur resident Mahadevan had moved the Kerala High Court alleging the event was forcing the children to write and recite prayers contrary to their religious beliefs. However, the organisers argued that the library committee has been organising the programme to allow all people to participate in the Vidyarambham ceremony in a secular manner. They cited the multiple options of prayers being offered to parents to choose from. They also said that no specific prayer would be forced on any child.

Dismissing the petition, the High Court observed that the notification issued by the organisers indicated that parents could choose any prayer for their child. Stressing that India is a land of religious pluralism, the court observed that the event respects the differences as well as individual choices made by the parents.

At the ceremony, parent chose the first words to be written or recited by their children. Photo: Special Arrangement

"Despite the controversy and massive protest, the programme received a good response from the public. People with secular mindset extended huge support to the event," said Ramesh Babu.

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