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Each day at the Shantiniketan School starts with the Saraswati Vandana. When painting competitions are held in the school, images of Hindu gods and goddesses are most common. Sanskrit is a favourite subject of many a student. Nothing new about it except that the 1, 200-odd students studying in the Hindu-run school are Muslims.
In 1983, when Ranchodbhai Kiri started Shantiniketan in the all-Muslim Juhapura area of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, only 20 percent of the students were Muslims. But when riots involving the Muslims of Juhapura and the Hindus of nearby Jivrajpark-Vejalpur affected the locality, Hindus started migrating. Today, all the students are Muslims and the school is an unparalled example of harmony. In the 2002, when a section of inflamed Muslims wanted the school closed, the parents of the students stood like a wall behind it.
Shantiniketan's principal says, "We never thought of moving the school out of the area because of the love and affection of the local Muslims. Indeed, they value the high standard of education which we have set.'' Such is the reputation of the school that some of the local Muslim strongmen accused of involvement in communal riots are willing to protect the school during the riots.
The parents of Shantiniketan's students believe that it's the best school when it comes to the quality of the teaching. A large number of students have gone for both graduation and post graduation studies. Significantly, the only Muslim teacher in the 40-member teaching staff, Husena Mansuri, teaches Sanskrit. In fact, she is so happy at the school that she recently declined the principalship of another Muslim-run school.
Some of the students' entries in a recent school painting competition mere truly moving. One drew a picture of Bharat Mata with a mosque and temple, while another portrayed a boy tying rakhi to his sister. Trully, Shantiniketan is a beacon of hope that, despite the provocations from both communities, Hindus and Muslims can live side-by-side with mutual respect.
How the Shantiniketan school starts the day?
Hindus and Muslims cannot live side by side
Hindus and Muslims can live side by side
Only Hindus can live
Only Muslims can live