Done being a poster woman of Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) teachers' struggle, 2011 slapgate victim Varinder Pal Kaur has appealed to the parents of baby girl "Rooth" to give the protest's latest innocent casualty her last rites.
An Akali sarpanch's slapping the jobless educator in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gidderbaha had raised a wave of anger similar to what has followed since the death of 14-month-old Eknoor Kaur "Rooth" on Thursday. The child had caught a chill after police had taken away quilts from her mother and other protesting teachers camping in Bathinda.
In 2012 as well, the Shiromani Akali Dal and its Bathinda parliamentarian Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who runs the Nanhi Chhaan campaign for the protection of girl child, were the target. Even film star Shahrukh Khan had joined the public outrage on YouTube after the slapgate video had gone viral on the Internet portal.
That scene is on an EGS-union poster depicting the history of its agitation, one that the victim now wants removed from the campaign site. "The-then EGS union leadership betrayed me," said Varinder Pal Kaur. Her brother is still implicated in the false case police had slapped on him to force her to compromise.
"The EGS union hyped slapgate to seem fighting for justice. You won't believe what happened next," said the victim. Most leaders turned hostile for money in the court to save the sarpanch. "They backstabbed me, gave my father the heart disease," she said.
On December 8, 2011, her brother was also part of the protest at Sukhna Ablu village where police charged the teachers with damaging public property. The union leaders got their names cleared but left her brother and his two friends out in the cold. "I don't want to return to the protest," said Varinder Pal Kaur, "but I fear Rooth's parents will become next victims. If the EGS leadership had any guts, it should have allowed the child's funeral and carried on the protest without making her body the instrument of it."
She drifted, says union
"Varinder campaigned for the Congress in the 2012 assembly elections; she drifted from the agenda of the EGS union. She should not have reached compromise with sarpanch. I do not know if her brother is still implicated," said Gagan Abohar of the EGS union action committee.