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Forbidden to say good morning

INDIA. Children are no longer allowed to say "good morning" in government schools in India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, which rules the state, has said that pupils must start their day by worshipping a portrait of Bharat Maata (Mother India) and reciting Vande Matram (Long live India), a Sanskrit song with deeply Hindu overtones. They have also been told to respond to the roll call with Vande Matram instead of "Yes, sir" or "Present, sir".

The BJP's decision has angered Muslims who have called it an attempt to "forcibly impose a Hindu agenda" on minorities. Zafaryab Jilani, a spokesman for a Muslim law organisation, said Muslim children would defy the instruction because venerating Bharat Maata's portrait amounts to idol worship, which Islam does not permit.

Ravindra Shukla, the state education minister, said the change is intended to "inculcate patriotism among the youth" and claimed surprise at the Muslim reaction.

But a representative of the New Delhi-based progressive teachers' forum said: " No government in a secular country can be allowed to get away with it. "

Hasan Suroor and Suchitra Behal

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