Like many children growing up in Uttar Pradesh in the 1980s, Waziruddin, 55, learned to sing Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua, a poem by the renowned Urdu poet Mohammad Iqbal, in school.

“Everyone, whether Hindus or Muslims, would recite it,” Waziruddin said.

He added: “Par mahaul ab badal gaya hai.” The situation has changed now.

He should know. Only four months ago, in December, the former elementary school teacher in a government school in Bareilly was forced out of his job after Hindutva activists objected to a video of his students singing the Iqbal poem in school and accused him of trying to convert some of them to Islam.

Not only was he terminated from his job as a Shiksha Mitra, the post of a temporary teacher in the state’s government schools, Waziruddin also had to spend 10 days in jail.

On a complaint by Vishwa Hindu Parishad members, the police filed a first information report against Waziruddin and another teacher under Sections 298 and 153 of the Indian Penal Code, accusing them of hurting religious sentiments and provoking with an intent to cause a riot.

This is one of at least three reported instances of Uttar Pradesh authorities punishing teachers over the song at the behest of Hindutva activists.

Parents outside a Hathras school protesting against the song. Credit: Piyush Rai/Twitter screengrab.

Three weeks ago, a group of parents led by Hindutva activists protested outside a private school in Hathras and accused the school administration of forcing non-Muslim students to offer namaz.

The management of BLS International School denied the allegations, saying that the children had only recited Iqbal’s song while celebrating World Heritage Day. But it went on to suspend the principal and two teachers.

The district administration ordered an inquiry. In her initial comments to the media, district magistrate Archana Verma said: “We have seen the video and we did not find anything like this. It was a cultural event.” But the teachers remain suspended…

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