Anshul, 18, is one of the 149 tribal students of the rather unimaginatively named Prayas Residential School, Raipur, who cleared the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) at first attempt this year.
Ever since the results were declared last week, there has been a gaggle of relatives hanging around the corridors of the three-storey school building in Gudiyari with anxious eyes and modest potlis (cloth bundle) bulging with local delicacies gulgula and gur laddoo.
Most students return home after exams, but for these 230 students, in good times and bad times home travels to the school.
“Unke nishaane pe aana nahi chahte hai (Don’t want to be targeted by them again),” says Anshul, a lanky 6-footer with downcast eyes.
Quiz him about the “unke” and he murmurs with a little effort and some fear — “naxali”.
It turns out his father, an informer, was shot dead by naxals in Bijapur in 2007.
His classmate Sanjeev’s father played an active role in the anti-naxal Salwa Judum campaign. In 2010, he was chased, trapped and abducted from the local market in Bijapur.
Naveen’s farmer parents had to shift from Dantewada to Kanker after Maoists attacked their house in 2009 for not giving in to their demand — one child for the Maoist movement.
“Wahan sirf khatra hi khatra hai (Back home it is terror, terror everywhere)” says another student Sukh Ram.
Today, however, Sukh Ram, Naveen and Sanjeev, have more than a horrific past in common. Having cracked the AIEEE they have a proud present and a bright future as well.
They were handpicked from schools scattered across Maoist-affected districts based on their academic performance till Class 10, as part of Prayas — an initative launched by the ST/SC welfare department in 2010.
Principal secretary of the department Rajendra Prasad Mandal is also overwhelmed by the success. “We will launch a similar initiative for girls.”
As for the engineers-to-be, they are busy getting ready for the challenges ahead. Says Sukh Ram, “I have to learn to speak in English and Hindi if I have to work in a city.”