A Hindu priest was arrested after 30 Indian teenagers were given swords as part of a school graduation ceremony aimed at encouraging them to fight “Islamic militancy,” police said.
The students, aged 14 and 15, were given the weapons to “empower the Hindu community to fight back against Islamic extremism and Muslim residents,” a police source said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
Police raided the Hindu school in an area with a history of clashes between rival communities after school officials ignored demands to halt the graduation ceremony that began five years ago, recovering 33 swords, the source said.
The study of ‘Shastra and Shaastra’ (weapons and scriptures) was part of the curriculum and along with a sword, each student was given four Hindu books.
Temple priest Akshar Prasad was arrested by police who said they suspected hardline Hindu organisations may have been behind the ceremony in Bhavnagar, a town in western Gujarat province.
Gujarat remains a hotbed of tensions between Hindus and Muslims after riots in 2002 left more than 2,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.
The killings were in retaliation for the deaths of 59 Hindus in a train allegedly torched by Muslims. The Hindu nationalist Gujarat government was accused of turning a blind eye to the riots, a charge it rejected.
Police launched the raid after a tip-off from a parent. “I did not want my child to carry a sword back home as the final lesson from his school,” Rakesh Patel said.
Police superintendent Hasmukh Patel said schools were banned from handing out weapons. “But they went ahead with their plans and punitive action had to be initiated,” he said.
Source: AFP via Yahoo! News