‘Are We His Servants,’ Asks Dalit Teacher Hemlata Bairwa; Questions Rajasthan Minister Authority to Order Her Suspension

A school teacher, Bairwa was suspended allegedly on the direction of Education Minister Madan Dilawar after she refused to worship goddess Saraswati during Republic Day celebrations.
‘Are We His Servants,’ Asks Dalit Teacher Hemlata Bairwa; Questions Rajasthan Minister Authority to Order Her Suspension

New Delhi: You must have come across a viral video wherein a 40-year-old school teacher — standing in front of garlanded portraits of B.R. Ambedkar, Savitribai Phule and Mahatma Gandhi — can be seen confronting a group of men on January 26 (Republic Day), this year.

The men, while arguing with her, can be heard saying, “Bachchon ki devi toh Saraswati hain (Saraswati is the goddess of children).” She retorts to the statement, “Bachchon ki devi toh Savitribai Phule hain (Savitribai Phule is the goddess of children).”

The teacher can also be seen refusing to bow down to the men’s pressure that she perform a worship of the Hindu goddess Saraswati. The men gathered in front of the school are then seen to be challenging her to carry out the program.

One of the men seeks to know if she is “ignorant of Hindu customs”, to which she quickly shoots back, “What does the word Hindu mean?” 

Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai sab barabar hain (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian are all equal),” she tells them.

The video is from Rajasthan’s Baran district where a heated argument took place between them during Republic Day celebrations at an upper primary school. The lady teacher in question is Hemlata Bairwa — who belongs to the Dalit community.

She was suspended and asked to report to Bikaner by the state’s education department a month after the incident allegedly on the instructions of Minister of School Education Madan Dilawar — who had publicly announced her suspension while speaking on the occasion.

Bikaner is over 600 kilometers away from her home district (Baran).

Her suspension has led Dalit organizations to stage rallies throughout the state, calling for the minister to step down and her suspension to be revoked.

Are We Servants of Minister; How Can He Declare Suspension?’

No one better than the teacher can narrate the sequence of events — which unfolded that day.

“On Republic Day, as a government servant, I was discharging my official duties to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the implementation of the sacred Constitution of India. Two of my fellow teachers — Hansraj Sain and Bhupendra Sain — initially put pressure on me to worship Saraswati. They left after I refused to comply as it’s not constitutionally mandated. They returned with a group of villagers after some time and began harassing me. They hurled casteist slurs because I belong to the Scheduled Caste,” she alleged, while talking to The Mooknayak.

As per Article 51A, she said, the citizens of the country have to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions such as the National Flag and the National Anthem; cherish and follow the noble ideals — which inspired our freedom struggle; and uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country. 

She said scientific standpoint contradicts imaginary things. “And therefore, I refused to perform Saraswati’s worship,” she clarified.

She alleged that she was suspended on the directions of the education minister who belongs to the incumbent Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I was suspended and told to report to Bikaner, which is 600 kilometers from my house. I won’t do so as I cannot stand this unfairness. I was threatened by the minister openly. How is it acceptable? How is it possible for the minister to declare that I am being suspended while standing on a public platform? Are we his minions that he may declare our banishment?” she asked, stating that it’s not merely a question of her suspension, but respect and dignity of women.

She defended her conduct, claiming that she just obeyed the Constitution.

“Religious beliefs are personal. It cannot be imposed on the Constitution and places of secular nature like schools,” she said with convictions, adding that she won’t cow down and fight back with full force against her suspension and the “injustice” meted out to her “because of her caste”.

“I have done nothing wrong. I stand by with what I have done and said. I carried out my official assignment within the Constitution’s bounds. But I am being harassed because I belong to the Scheduled Caste,” she said, demanding actions against the accused.

“Savitribhai Phule established female-only schools,” she said, asking, “How many women were literate before her?”

Despite lodging a first information report (FIR) at Nahargarh police station in Baran, she said, no one has been arrested as of yet. 

“Instead, I have been suspended,” she said, claiming that Dalit students are harassed every now and then in the school by the teachers and locals.

How Dare One Question Saraswati Ma’s Role in Schools

Following the incident, 46-year-old Dilawar had announced that an investigation would be carried out into the matter. Bairwa was suspended last week.

“People are now questioning Saraswati Ma’s role in schools. They have become so overpriced that they haven’t mended their methods even now. I suspend the individual who raised the question and make Bikaner the person’s office. I have given instructions to officials just one hour back in this regard,” the minister said in the public meeting last week in Baran, with the attendees applauding his decision with the chant of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (long live mother India).

Interestingly, Dilawar too belongs to the Dalit community and is among the most fiery representatives of Hindutva in the state. He often grabs headlines for his statements. Ever since he has taken charge as the education minister, he has been courting controversies for reasons such as his insistence on ‘Surya Namaskar’ (Sun Salutation) during morning assembly in schools, calling Mughal emperor Akbar a “rapist” and with his statements against wearing hijab (head scarf) in schools.

On February 23, soon after the minister’s speech, an order was issued by the Baran district elementary education officer (headquarters). It stated a disciplinary action being initiated against Bairwa, and she is being suspended with immediate effect immediately — with her headquarters being shifted to Bikaner.


Based on a complaint lodged by Bairwa, the police have registered an against the two fellow teachers — Bhupendra Sain and Hansraj Sain and the locals accompanying them (Radheshyam Nagar, Bharat Nagar, Hansraj Nagar and other members of their family) under sections 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with relevant provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly hurling casteist slurs and threatening and harassing her.

He has specifically said in the FIR that Article 28 of the Indian Constitution makes no mention of Saraswati Puja.

Those named in the FIR belong to various other backward classes (OBC).

A counter case has also been lodged against Bairwa by the villagers, who have accused her of offending their religious feelings with her views on the goddess Saraswati.

She has been booked under IPC sections, including 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious sentiments of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 153A (promoting hostility between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth and residency).

“FIRs have been registered on the basis of the complaints of the two sides under relevant provision of law. Investigations are being carried out, and no arrests have so far been made in any of the two cases,” said an officer close to the probe.

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