A screenshot of a report by Dainik Bhaskar that says, “शिक्षा विभाग ने मांगी जानकारी – स्कूलों में सरस्वती मंदिर किस आदेश से बनाया” (Education Department seeks information – under which order were Saraswati temples built in schools) was shared by BJP leader Rajkumar Thukral on Facebook stating that a “Tuglaki” order was passed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s government in Rajasthan.
He wrote that after the process of removing temples from police stations, the Congress government in the state has started questioning the presence of Saraswati temples in schools. He further accused Congress of appeasing a “certain community”.
Rajasthan BJP MLA, Kanhaiya Lal Choudhary, has also shared the clipping on Facebook with the claim that the Gehlot-led Congress government has an objection to the existence of temples of the Hindu deity Saraswati in schools.
This clipping is being shared at a time when both BJP and Congress have accused each other of razing a 300-year-old temple of Hindu deity Shiva in Rajasthan’s Alwar. Rajasthan BJP unit claimed that the demolition was the Gehlot government’s ‘revenge’ for the drive undertaken recently in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. It must be noted that the demolition in Alwar took place at least a week prior to the Jahangirpuri drive.
Removal of temples in police stations
According to a report published in The Hindu on October 2021, Additional Director General of Police (Police Housing), A. Ponnuchami, stated in a circular that the Rajasthan Religious Places and Buildings Act, 1954, disallowed the religious use of public places. This circular was issued due to a rise in the trend of the construction of places of worship in police stations with public participation.
Speaking to The Times of India, Ponnuchami said that they had received complaints about shrines being constructed inside police buildings through public participation hence, the order was a reminder to all senior officials to strictly follow the law. The police also clarified that the order will not impact existing structures.
Alt News reached out to DGP M. L. Lather who told us this was an old order passed in 2021. He further reiterated that as per the Rajasthan Religious Places and Buildings Act, 1954, no religious construction can be carried out in public spaces without prior permission. This applies to religious structures of all religions.
Hence, the claim that the government ordered the removal of temples from police stations in Rajasthan is misleading. The circular was issued by the ADGP to remind senior police officials that the religious use of public places is illegal. Moreover, the order did not apply to existing structures inside police stations.
Temples of Hindu deity Saraswati in schools
It is important to note that the Dainik Bhaskar clipping shared by BJP leaders has a subheading that clearly says that the circular issued by the Bhilwara Chief District Education Officer (CDEO) was based on a request filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The article does not state that the government has objected to the presence of Saraswati temples in schools but sought information regarding the same after an RTI request was filed by a private individual.
We performed a keyword search and came across a news report that said one Motilal Singhania had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 regarding the number of Saraswati idols installed in schools on February 14 in Bhilwara. This RTI was filed with the Bhilwara Chief District Education Officer (CDEO). Based on Singhania’s RTI, on March 22, the CDEO issued a letter to all Chief Block Education Officers (CBEO) of the district seeking information on the matter. A copy of the circular issued by the CDEO is provided in this report. It is also available on Twitter.
Alt News contacted Bhilwara CDEO Brahma Ram Choudhary who confirmed that based on the RTI, a circular was issued on March 22. He said, “We did not have data on Saraswati idols installed in schools so a circular was issued. These idols are not installed as per government orders, but the installation is based on suggestions that the school committees receive. It is up to them [the committee] to decide whether to accept the suggestions or not. There is no government involvement in the matter.”
Choudhary added, “Our departments did not have data on the matter therefore, on April 23, we issued a reply to the RTI stating the same. We also dismissed the previously issued circular [seeking information from CBEOs] the same day.”
Below we have attached a copy of the response provided to the RTI request as well the order dismissing the circular issued on March 22.
Hence, a circular by the CDEO of Bhilwara issued to block officers based on an RTI request was falsely shared by BJP leaders as the Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan has raised an objection to the presence of Saraswati temples in schools.
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