Pray, what wrong did I do, asks atheist teacher

Sep 1, 2013

When all in his school fold their hands during prayer, Sanjay Salve keeps his hands firmly behind his back. The 41-year-old English teacher in Nashik is fighting imposition of prayers during school hours. “Only the national anthem should be played in school,” he says.

But Mr. Salve has paid a price for his “defiance.” Though eligible for a higher pay grade since 2008 – the year after his revolt – he has been denied it for ‘indiscipline.’ The management of the state-funded Savitribai Phule Secondary School sullied his 2008-09 Confidential Report. It was the same management which gave him excellent CRs in the preceding 12 years. “And fellow teachers with whom I once had cordial relations now avoid me,” he says.

Ironically, the school has been named after one of Maharashtra’s greatest 19th Century social reformers. Savitribai was the first woman teacher in the first women’s school and founded one for girls from the marginalised castes. Mr. Salve is an assistant teacher in the school run by the Mahatma Phule Samaj Shikshan Sanstha. Of nearly 1,600 students here, almost 60 per cent are either OBCs or Dalits. Around 35 per cent are Muslims. Mr. Salve is a Dalit who embraced Buddhism. The school management is overwhelmingly OBC.

Mr. Salve, who joined the school in 1996, says “the national anthem can instil more values in students. In any case, compulsory prayer is contrary to Article 28 (3) of the Constitution. Nor is there scope for it in the Maharashtra Secondary School Code.”

He has sought redress from the Bombay High Court. The next hearing in the case – whose outcome could seriously impact the debate over religious preaching and prayer in schools – is on September 6.

Written By: Alok Deshpande
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0 comments on “Pray, what wrong did I do, asks atheist teacher

  • A Dalit is a member of the untouchable caste. They have a variety of religions.

    What is OBC? I presume some sort of Hindu. The only reference I could find was Order of Buddhist Contemplatives

    You need a really corrupt set of judges to impose their religion even when the constitution clearly says that is not permitted.

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  • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

    A Dalit is a member of the untouchable caste. They have a variety of religions.

    What is OBC?

    Other Backward Classes

    “Backward class people is a collective term, used by the Government of India, for castes which are educationally and socially disadvantaged. They typically include the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) “. (Wikipedia)

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  • 3
    Cairsley says:

    Good luck to Sanjay Salve. He sounds like a very sane man. I am just very sorry that he has to put up with such irrational nonsense, even when he is in fact adhering to the law of the land.

    According to Wikipedia, ‘OBC’ stands for ‘other backward caste(s)’. So the religion in question here is Hinduism.

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  • 4
    Stuart M. says:

    When I plugged OBC into Google search, I got Ottawa Bicycle Coalition. I finally found an article which said OBC means Other Backward Classes, but then it confused me by mentioning MBCs, More Backward Classes.

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  • it seems that the Indian government has a positive discrimination program to benefit the many castes and ethnic groups that are discriminated against. Sanjay Salve converted to Buddhism, a common way for Hindu untouchables (Dalits) to try and get out of the caste system. In this story, the low caste OBCs seem to be practicing discrimination against a Buddhist who doesn’t worship the Hindu gods. I wonder exactly who the staff and pupils at this school are being told to pray to.

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