The Congress is getting ready to launch one more programme even before its previous one has taken off. To counter the efforts made by RSS-backed Shishu Mandir and Vidya Bharati schools to “influence young minds” and the BJP’s attempts to convert tribals to its communal agenda, the party plans to set up schools in tribal areas which would, besides spreading literacy, also propagate Gandhian values among them.
These schools would be set up to mark the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha and would operate with the help of non governmental organisations which have been working among tribals.
The date and venue for setting up such schools are yet to be worked out. But the subcommittee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi set up to draw up programmes to mark 100 years of satyagraha has, in principle, decided that they will be set up in tribal areas.
In July 2003 at the party’s Vichar Manthan Shivir in Shimla, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had announced the establishment of the Bapu Sadbhavana and Shiksha Trust, saying that the ideological battle has to begin in young and impressionable minds where the party’s political opponents were planting seeds of “bigotry, intolerance and hate.’’ At the same time, the trust would instil pride in the country’s heritage, she said.
Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande was appointed chairman of the trust within a month. Though the string of Gandhian institutions she heads were already engaged in the task of spreading Gandhian values and thoughts, it was only in August 2005 that well-wishers stepped forward to offer land for the first school under the trust. The slow pace was attributed to the fact that the Congress had come to power at the Centre and the Human Resource Development Ministry was on a concerted drive to detoxify education of its communal strain.
Besides setting up schools in tribal areas, the Satyagraha subcommittee, headed by Defence Minister AK Antony, is also planning on a global conference on Gandhian values and thoughts in New Delhi on January 29-30, 2007 to which several world leaders will be invited.
The proposals, which will be finalised and handed over to Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her approval, also envisages major conventions on the dates and places associated with the Satyagraha movement, including Wardha, Champaran and Bardoli as well as taking Gandhian films and literature to the people.