Suppressing free speech the curious case of Principal Parveen Sheikh @auramag
Category : Education


Sheikh’s long-time support staff bid her an emotional farewell.

Parveen Sheikh, the Principal of the Somaiya School in Mumbai, Maharashtra, is an accomplished educationist who has worked in education and development for three decades. Her interest and passion have led her to conceptualise and create innovative ideas for preschools and primary and secondary schools.
Parveen is an expert in coaching, mentoring, and professional development of pre-service and in-service teachers. She guides research-based practices and designs developmentally appropriate curricula, classroom layouts, school support, audits, and startups. This is evident from the numerous workshops she developed and conducted and her work with reputed educational institutions across India.
Parveen Sheikh has worked with the Somaiya School in Mumbai for the last 12 years and has been its Principal for the previous seven years.
But to the shock and surprise of her and the school’s students and teachers, the school’s management asked her to resign after OpIndia, a Hindutva website, published an article accusing her of spreading misinformation and hate speech.
In an article published on 24 April, OpIndia, the Hindutva website, accused Parveen Sheikh of being a Hamas sympathiser, an anti-Hindu and supporter of “Islamist Umar Khalid”, the Jawaharlal University scholar arrested by the Delhi police under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 and undergoing imprisonment without trial for more than two years now.
The article was solely based on posts she had liked on her Twitter account. On 26 April, the Somaiya School management asked Sheikh to resign from the post of Principal. Shaikh told the Indian Express,” In a meeting held on 26 April, the management told me that it was a tough decision for them to make, but this association was no longer tenable, and they asked me to resign…I continued to work over the following days, but there was covert and overt pressure from the management representatives to coerce me to resign.”
Talking to the Indian Express, Principal Parveen Sheikh said, “I live in a democratic India. I hold the right of freedom of speech in high regard, as it is the cornerstone of democracy. It is unimaginable that my expression would provoke such a malicious response. I will not resign because I have given the organisation my all. The management has always been supportive and positive. They acknowledge my role in the school’s growth and success. But they said it is a difficult decision.”
Parveen Shaiekh was unaware of the Hindutva portal OpIndia or the article about her until the management of the Somaiya school informed her about it. She said it was a puzzle that the Hindutva portal had taken an interest in the activities of a school principal. After publishing the article on her likes and dislikes, the portal only contacted her.
The OpIndia article, which has resulted in a great deal of hate speech against Sheikh on Twitter, argued that her political views are detrimental to the development of thousands of unsuspecting children in her care. One wonders under what rule or regulation the Somaiya School management allowed the Hindutva portal to take over the functions of an Inspector of Schools or a Director of Education so that the portal’s opinion is taken as a final indictment and asked the Principal to resign.
In this context, it is pertinent to point out that there is no protocol or official policy on public political remarks by employees of Samaiya institutions. However, Parveen Shaiekh said that at a meeting in March, the management clarified that “Employees are permitted to express their personal views on their private social media accounts, provided they clearly state that these are personal opinions.”
Shaikh tweets only on education but has liked several posts supportive of the Palestinians and also critical of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Modi.
Several parents have spoken out to support Shaikh and emailed the school management supporting the principal. One parent, Preeti Gopalakrishnan, wrote, “Shaikh has promoted cultural harmony, tolerance, and peace. I cannot think of any occasion where she has misled the community of students and the parents .”
Another parent, Shilpa Phadke, wrote, “It is untenable that an extraordinary educator should be targeted in this way because she is a Muslim and then be asked to leave.” In a message to her students, she said, “ As your principal, I have always strived to create an inclusivity and learning environment guided by the values we cherish in our democratic society. Despite these trying circumstances, your continued trust and confidence in my leadership reinforce my commitment to uphold these ideals…
Thank you for standing with me. Your belief in my integrity is the greatest honour I could receive as an educator.”


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