The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar on Tuesday came under attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party over the proposed holiday calendar for 2024, according to which, schools may be required to remain open on many Hindu festivals.
The education department communication stated the revised holiday calendar aims at ensuring that classes are held for at least 220 days in the year, in accordance with the RTE Act. It said the calendar has to be followed by "all schools run or aided by the government, at primary, upper primary and secondary levels".
Screenshots of the proposed holiday calendar have been shared on social media by BJP leaders, many of whom have also come out with angry statements.
Sushil Kumar Modi, Rajya Sabha member and former deputy chief minister, told PTI Video, "The late Monday night order of the education department is an assault on Hindu sentiments by the Nitish Kumar government. We demand its immediate withdrawal or else the people will take to the streets in protest."
Holidays on Ram Navami and Janmashtami, associated with the most popular of Hindu deities Lord Rama and Lord Krishna respectively, have been done away with and on the other hand, the number of days requiring schools to remain shut for Muslim festivals has been increased, Modi alleged.
"Schools in Muslim-majority areas have been allowed to have weekly offs on Friday. On the other hand, Hindus, have been asked to make do without holidays on aforementioned festivals as also Raksha Bandhan, Maha Shivaratri and Anant Chaturdashi. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his associates think they can divide Hindus along caste lines and get away with Muslim appeasement," he said.
Union Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, who is also a former Bihar BJP chief, accused Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav of coming out with a "well-planned conspiracy to drive the state towards Islamisation".
"But the Hindus of Bihar will not take this lying down and give a befitting reply to the state's ruling Mahagathbandhan," Rai added.
Mahagathbandhan leaders hit back at the opposition party, while admitting that they did not approve of the education department's move and would like it to make amends.
Ashok Chaudhary, a senior JD(U) leader who had in the past held education portfolio, said, "The department should have accepted traditions. I am sure once the matter comes to the notice of the chief minister, he will ensure that amendments are made, just like he did in the past."
The allusion was to a similar cut in holidays proposed by the department by an order passed in August, which was withdrawn after widespread protests by teachers.
Choudhary, however, lambasted the BJP for "acting as if it held a patent for Hindus and their faith".
RJD spokesperson Shakti Yadav, whose party leader Chandra Shekhar currently holds the education portfolio, said, "It is the Right to Education Act (RTE) that allows not more than 60 holidays in a calendar year. So, naturally, some adjustments will have to be made."
"Nobody has been deprived of holidays on Dussehra, Diwali, Holi and Chhath. The department should reconsider declaring a holiday on Raksha Bandhan, though we attach little importance to the BJP's rants," he added.