In Orissa’s Kandhamal, classrooms lie empty and schools smashed. There are no signs of teachers — mostly nuns — returning. In Chhattisgarh, many schools have become hideouts for Maoist rebels or bases for paramilitary camps.
Students from five strife-torn states, who have stopped going to school, will stage a protest in Delhi on Children’s Day, demanding their right to education. “All our teachers have fled. My school is in ruins,” Arup Kandha (name changed), a student from Kandhamal, said.
The All-India Students’ Federation (AISF), which is spearheading the protest, said getting children from Kandhamal was difficult. “The police did not want too many of these children to be brought to Delhi because their horror tales would be heard nationally,” Ginu Zacharia Oommen, AISF president, told HT.
The protest has been called to demand the passage of the Right to Education Bill — cleared by the Cabinet — in the Paliament session starting December 10.
The communal violence in Kandhamal and elsewhere has displaced not just teachers but also students. “The Orissa government did not defer the board exams despite the devastating riots,” said John Dayal, president of the All-India Catholic Union, who had pressed fact-finding teams to Orissa. “We had demanded education camps inside refugee camps but the government isn’t listening.”
Kandha, like thousands of children, now stays in a refugee camp in the district. He doesn’t even step outside the camp, fearing attacks. In the district, more than 100 schools run by Christian missionaries lie broken.