When school girls taught Khattar govt a lesson
According to a senior BJP leader, the government, based on the feedback from its trouble-shooters, hoped that the girls and villagers will get tired and call off the strike. But it was not to be as the government had to blink first.india Updated: May 18, 2017 09:37 IST
It was an unusual display of grit, behind the Rewari rebellion, by the school-going rural girls on hunger strike that forced the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana to bend. Equally unusual was their demand to upgrade their village high school to senior secondary to help them evade the road side Romeos.
But the week-long episode spearheaded by 13 girls who sat on hunger strike on May 10 afternoon at Gothra Tappa Dahina village in Rewari district exposed the capacity and skills of the first-ever saffron government to tackle even situations of this low size and scale.
This hunger strike by a dozen-odd girls, who were backed by other girls of the village and their parents, also brought to the fore the fault-lines within the 31-month-old government led by the RSS Pracharak-turned chief minister Khattar in taking quick decisions.
Right from the beginning of this local agitation, the government misread the resolve of these near 70 matriculate girls—backed by the Panchayat—who used to walk about 3km to study in the nearest senior secondary school and allegedly faced harassment by the bike-borne Romeos.
As per 2011 census, over 65% population—1.65 crore people—of Haryana lives in rural areas.
Violence against women and girls is high in the state. Between 2011 and 2015, 259% increase in kidnappings and 382% increase in molestation cases was registered, as per government records.
The eve-teasing allegation by the girls that put the government in a tight spot flies on the face of the Haryana police chief BS Sandhu who has been claiming that effective steps have been taken to deal with “eve-teasing” cases in the state under the much-touted “Operation Durga.”
According to a senior BJP leader, the government, based on the feedback from its trouble-shooters, hoped that the girls and villagers will get tired and call off the strike. But it was not to be as the government had to blink first.
It was this miscalculation and misreading of the growing anger that the villagers of Gothra had the last laugh on Wednesday when education minister Ram Bilas Sharma announced to upgrade the government high school at Gothra to senior secondary. The minister took the decision after discussing it with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar. On Thursday, he said, a principal will be posted and the admission process will start, while the agitating girls will be transferred to the upgraded school.
Government sources say the initial political response of the government to deflate the “upgrade our high school” chorus was woefully slow. After the situation started snowballing into a major controversy, the tough-talking government deputed BJP local leaders like MLA from Kosli Bikram Singh Yadav, including officers of the district administration to break the logjam.
“Apart from the state government, it is also the social responsibility of the other prominent people of the village and panchayats to come forward to confront bad elements,” additional chief secretary (school education) PK Das said.
The disturbing signal that emanated from the Rewari rebellion is whether the solution to overcoming the menace of street harassment is in opening schools in every village. The worry of the government is that similar demands will start pouring in from other parts of the state.
The red-faced Khattar government is undoubtedly keeping its fingers crossed.