UP: School debate on Israel-Hamas conflict ignites controversy

Following the controversy students protested in front of the principal's office demanding an apology. But, the authorities allegedly imposed strict rules, restricting their movements.

A school debate on the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict sparked controversy when students were reportedly asked to defend Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

On Saturday 9, Huddard High School in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district conducted a debate competition where those speaking ‘FOR’ the motion were given the topic: Hamas terrorist ne Israel ke kitne nav shishu ko mara hai aur Israel ka haq hai wo Hamas par Missile dale (How many infants have Hamas terrorists killed in Israel, and does Israel have the right to launch missiles on Hamas?)

And those speaking ‘AGAINST the motion were given the topic: Israel ko dekho wo kaise Hamas k terrorist attack ko jhel raha hai jahan Hamas ne unki peedhiyan khatam krdil (Look at how Israel is coping with the terrorist attacks by Hamas, where Hamas has wiped out generations of Israelis.)

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According to a report by Maktoob Media, a few participating students expressed discomfort. “When we resisted, we were called Pakistanis and terrorists. Teachers openly supported Israel’s genocidal actions,” Maktoob Media quoted a student who requested anonymity.

One of the students was even threatened with expulsion for a year. Some of them were told they would be marked as failed if they protested. “The teacher who organised this debate competition is threatening students and telling them to fail us in our board examinations,” the student said.

Another student who spoke to Maktoob Media disagreed with the school debate. “We study in schools to learn rationality and justice. If we are fed with the wrong information when everybody knows about the structural violence and genocide of innocent Palestinians, there is no point in getting such education,” the student said.

Following the debate controversy, on December 12, the students protested in front of the principal’s office, demanding an apology. However, the school authorities imposed strict rules, restricting students’ movements.

“Students are not allowed to move in a group. We are not allowed to protest. Play period is suspended, lunchtime is suspended, and students are not allowed to walk in the corridors,” Maktoob Media quoted another student.

Principal Sunny Verghese washed off his hands by saying the views expressed by the protesting students are personal and the school has nothing to do with them.

“The views expressed by the students in the debates are their own, and we are not liable for that. The student who termed Hamas a terrorist organisation is her own opinion, and that is a part of the debate,” he was quoted by the local media.

Huddard High School is run by Christians, and a majority of the student population is Muslim. The school is located in a Muslim-majority locality.

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