Every Saturday evening, the din of devotion drowns out lectures delivered to students of Sahakar Night High School at NM Joshi Marg.
As devotees start congregating at the satsang organised in the school premises by the Sant Nirankari Mandal, students start shifting uncomfortably in their seats, bracing themselves for the loud chorus of chants and devotional songs that follow. After straining to hear their teachers for a while over the clamour, the students finally give up.
Students say that the mandal has been taking liberties with the timings, organising the satsangs on Saturday evenings. (Inset) Pravin Dalvi, a student of the school, who has taken up the matter with BMC authorities
Teachers are forced to end the classes early, forcing out the students, many of whom are adult learners making an extra effort to pursue their academic dreams. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has given permission to Sant Nirankari Mandal to organise a satsang in the NM Joshi Marg municipal school building on Sundays and public holidays.
However, students say that the organisation has been taking liberties with the timings, organising the devotional meet-ups on Saturday evenings. These meet-ups inevitably coincide with classes of Sahakar Night High school, which are held in the same building. According to BMC’s education department circular, cultural or religious activities and family functions can only be held inside municipal school premises on public holidays.
Pravin Dalvi, a student of the Std XII who has taken up the cudgels on behalf of his other disturbed classmates, has lodged several complaints on the matter. Speaking to mid-day, he said, “Because of the deafening sound coming from the satsang, students are told to leave early. Some days ago, a satsang was arranged on the ground floor, near the classrooms.
When I complained about this to the education officer, deputy municipal commissioner for education and the civic chief, the organisers only shifted the events to the first-floor auditorium.” Dalvi added, “I have been complaining about the violation for the past year.
After I lodged the complaint, some people tried to bribe me while some others tried to threaten me. But no action has been taken till date. BMC’S circular clearly states that no cultural or religious functions should be held in schools when they are open.”
On July 21, Dalvi lodged a fresh complaint about the violation, but there has been no intervention from the authorities yet. The BMC’s circular says in no uncertain terms that the BMC can cancel permissions to organisations in the event of any violations of existing rules.
A student, requesting anonymity, said, “Every Saturday, our studies suffer because of the noise coming from the satsang. Usually, we have classes from 7 pm to 10 pm, but we have to end our classes early because of all the commotion.”
After an uproar in the legislative assembly in March last year over the misuse of classrooms, the BMC cracked down on the commercial use of classrooms in the city. While notices have been issued thrice, asking organisations to vacate around 900 classrooms, very few tenants have actually done so.
Education Committee Chair-man Vinod Shelar said, “I will look into it. If this is happening, then action must be taken. Such activities are not allowed during class timings.” Ramchandra Adit, organiser of Sant Nirankari Mandal, said, “We take into consideration the classes that are held in the school.
Our satsang is carried out without causing any disturbance to anybody.” Asked why the mandal was breaking the rules by organising satsang on Saturday evenings, Adit replied, “We have been conducting the satsang for the past 30 years and nobody has complained.”
Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Education), Sunil Dhamne, said, “I will check if the satsang mandal has violated any rules. If classes are getting affected because of them, we will take action. Such activities are allowed only on public holidays.”