Gladson Dungdung (Guest Contributor, Sanhati)
The Indian Government and the Indian Media are repeatedly telling us that a ninety-two thousand square kilometres geographical area covering 170 districts in 9 states of India is out of control of the Indian State. The vicinity is full of the natural resources including a variety of minerals, forests and water sources. The territory is ruled by the Maoists therefore the Government has branded it as the ‘Red Corridor’.
Actually, the area is highly Adivasi dominated and therefore should be called the ‘Adivasi Corridor’. And of course, it is their homeland. The Indian State has been carrying on a major offensive in the Red Corridor since October 2009 to clear the land. In the latest development, the British Company “Execution Nobel limited” has estimated a business of $80 billion if the area is liberated from the Maoists. Consequently, the government is determined to cleanse the Maoists by 2013 by taking all required steps.
Meanwhile, on 1 April, 2010 (the day is observed as a “Fools Day” and many attempt to fool others), the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh appeared on the television channels addressing the Nation on the occasion of enforcing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and declared the day as a historic day for Indians. Perhaps, hardly anyone from the Red Corridor saw him in the television channels, as survival and protection are the biggest questions for them rather than hearing about their rights to education coming out of the auspicious mouth of the Prime Minister.
However, while addressing the Nation he said, “Today, our Government comes before you to redeem the pledge of giving all our children the right to elementary education by enforcing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. The needs of every disadvantaged section of our society, particularly girls, Dalits, Adivasis and Minorities must be of particular focus as we implement this Act.”
Further he said, “I want every Indian child, girl and boy, to be so touched by the light of education. I want every Indian to dream of a better future and live that dream.” The spirit of the Government is appreciable but in practice, the government has officially ensured the 75 % reservation for the privileged children in the private schools and also legalised the dual education system and privatisation of education.
At this juncture, we must recall that the Indian constitution guarantees to everyone the right to life, equality and liberty, which mean the State cannot put any conditions on the functioning of institutions, which results in denial of others’ rights and facilitates growth of inequality. Frankly speaking the right to equal education will ensure the right to equality. However, the Act ensures more privileges to the elite children. Obviously, it was a historical day for the children of ‘India’ and the worst day for the children of ‘Bharat’, who have to face rapidly growing of inequality, denial of rights and social justice. Indeed, the State has been withering away from its constitutional responsibilities, which is utterly dangerous.
However, it was just like any other day for the children of the Red Corridor on April 1. As usual, they were jumping in the forests here and there like monkeys; a few of them were rearing goats, some of them were gathering eatables and others were grazing cattle in the forests because there were police camps in their schools and the Security Forces were attempting to occupy other schools too in the name of dealing with the Maoists the biggest internal security threats to the Nation; this is what India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Home Minister, P. Chidambaram and their officers have been telling the people of the country as well as the world community since 2006.
It is a hard fact that the children of the Red Corridor hardly know about their curriculum because they never get books in time. Jharkhand is a crucial state in the Red Corridor, where the Government has never been able to give books to children in time since 2001. However, everyone is promoted in the class without qualification and the education budget of the state is also almost utilised. Interestingly, children are unaware about their curriculum; many do not even remember the alphabet, tables and rhymes but they are very much acquainted with the information related to the weapons used by either parties – the State and the Maoists in their war against each other.
One can see the ground realities by spending couple of hours with the children of Bundu, Tamar, Arki, Khunti and Angara blocks, all areas adjoining Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand. The children are well aware of weapons such as AK-47, Gun, Pistol, Bomb, Landmine, etc. but they do not know about their class-books. In these circumstances, one can apprehend the painful future of these children. They will be either victimized by the police, or the Maoists will engage them in the war against the state. In both the cases, they will be only sufferers. In this situation, can they hear about their rights from someone and demand for its enforcement when the government is not even ready to accept the serious violation of their rights by the security forces but blames the Maoists for everything.
The Jharkhand unit of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) had asked to the Jharkhand Government through an RTI petition to furnish information regarding the schools occupied by the Security Forces in the state. Since the government had no way to escape a list of 52 schools was given to the PUCL. On the basis of the information, the PUCL filed a PIL in the Jharkhand High Court in 2008. Consequently, the Court ordered the government to vacate the Security Forces from the schools within next six months. However, only a few schools were vacated. The Court gave three such orders and the last order ended on October 30, 2010 but the police camps are still remaining in many schools. Surprisingly, no action was taken against the police officers for their failure in upholding the Court’s orders.
The right based organization – Jharkhand Indigenous People’s Forum (JIPF) and Operation Green Hunt Virodhi Nagrik Manch also intervened on the issue of denial of right to education to children in the Red Corridor. The JIPF sent letters along with lists of 48 permanent and 40 temporary camps of the Jharkhand armed police (JAP) and the paramilitary Central reserve police force (CRPF) running in schools to the Home Minister of India and the Governor of Jharkhand requesting them to take necessary steps to vacant the schools immediately and also ensure that the Security Forces do not occupy any school in future so that the right to education of children of those villages can be ensured.
However, the Home Ministry did not take any action, only assuring action through phone calls, but the Governor order the Police to vacate the schools. Ironically, only a few schools were vacated, which the government counts as a big achievement though permanent police camps were still remaining in 31 schools.
The JIPF again submitted a list of 31 schools to the Home Secretary of Jharkhand, Rajbala Verma requesting her to vacate the security forces from the schools. She proudly said that only 11 schools are still occupied by the Security Forces and we will vacate those schools within a few months. The status report of the government shows that the police want to continue their camps in some schools for another six months and in some schools even for longer time and they are attempting to get permission from the Deputy Commissioner.
There are also cases, where the DC has given permission to the police for camping in the schools, which clearly means the government does not bother about the rights of the children living in the Red Corridor. The children are being denied right to education along with the right to food, which is clear violation of their right to life with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 and 21a of the Indian Constitution. Can the Indian state mete out the same treatment to the children of the elite?
Needless to say, when the Maoists blow up a school building, it becomes breaking news for the National New Channels and Front Page news for the print media. However, hundreds of schools occupied by the Security forces for years, do not become issue for the same Media. We fail to understand what the fourth realm of the democracy (media) is doing? For how long will the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized groups be betrayed, denied and alienated from their Constitutional rights and privileges? Why doesn’t the Indian State tell its poor people how long they have to pay the price for the so-called national security, national development and the national interests?
The Indian State must understand that the right to education and the police camps in the schools cannot go together. The Indian State has been practicing betrayal tricks (giving rights by one hand and taking away by another mighty hand) with the marginalized people of the country for last six decades. If the Government doesn’t stop it, the rapid growth of left-wing extremism cannot be halted.
Therefore, if Dr. Manmohan Singh is really concerned about the children’s rights, he must ensure the equal right to education to all children of ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ rather than practicing dual education system and preaching about equality, justice and prosperity.