Members of the depressed classes of Thadi village in the Ramgarh block have withdrawn all their wards from the local government school set up for them. They have set up their own school instead, with community help, to protest the discrimination by the schoolteachers.
"We are practising satyagraha," said Surendra Mohali.
The villagers did not want "an aggressive agitation against the perpetual affront to the dignity of our children. All parents agreed we should peacefully withdraw our wards and launch our own school to send the message across to the school management," he added.
This is the first time any local community has resorted to such a novel protest. The parents have constructed a one-room school in the village where 50 Dalit students are educated. The school is called the Bhandoch Middle School, an acronym for Bhangi, Dom and Chamar classes.
"The school has enrolled more students than the government school ever did," says Santosh, the man behind the effort. He recalled the idea came at a Gram Sabha meeting where some villagers "accused the government school teachers of discriminating against their children".
The villagers said three months ago they had complained about the discrimination by the teachers and the headmaster to the Deputy Commmissioner of Dumka, Mast Ram Meena and the SP, Sido Hembrom.
But the complaints were "not inquired into. So we withdrew en masse from the government school and decided to send our children to one of our own," said Sukhdeo Hajra, a villager.
Meena told HT he would institute an inquiry.
"If the report of discrimination has any substance, I will act." District Education Officer Sheonarain Singh, however, did not offer any comments.