School students rejoicing the victory

No Goodbye, Mr. Chips!

A Rajasthan Village Fights To Keep Its Schoolmaster

Kuhadvas is a big village in Rajasthan. Its senior secondary school is the oldest educational institution in the region. Children from 27 villages study in this school. Just over a year ago, Mr. Gangaram became Principal of the school, and his hard work transformed the school. Previously, the school had a pass rate of 30 to 40%. Within a year, this shot up to 70% for Class X and 90% for Class XII. The number of students shot up from 250 to 600.

Mr. Gangaram, an honest educator, never curried favour of the local BJP MLA Sundarlal. And so, he was transferred from the Kuhadvas school. On the morning of October 5, students and their parents learnt from the paper that their Principal was being taken away. The same morning, students locked the gates of the school, and began an indefinite hartal that lasted nearly a month. People of 27 villages gathered the next day to plan a movement against the transfer order, and decided to begin with a symbolic two-hour road-blockade on 7 October. The Deputy Police Commissioner arrived with his force and, as directed by the BJP MLA, lathicharged the protestors and even used tear gas and 29 rounds of firing. One villager, Amarsingh Dhanak got a bullet in his leg. The District Collector told the Press that it was the villagers who had begun the shooting.

A CPI(ML) team visited Kuhadvas on the 8 th , and found the police version to be entirely false; and that in fact police had fired on students and villagers without any warning.

The Block Pradhan, Smt. Santosh Ahlawat, who had contested Parliamentary Polls from a BJP ticket, came to assure villagers that their demand would be met, the transfer order revoked, and all cases against protestors withdrawn. Instead, police rounded up 26 people from Kuhadvas and other villages and slapped cases of Section 307 and Arms Act against them. The main accused in these cases was CPI(ML) District Committee Member and Rajasthan Kisan Sangathan District President Comrade Ratan Singh Arya, since he was leading the agitation.

A ‘Shiksha Bachao Sangharsh Samiti’ was launched, and several protest actions held, which were joined by the CPI(ML), SUCI, CPI(M) and other non-BJP parties. The PUCL also investigated the Kuhadvas incident and released its report to the Press. The movement took the shape of calling for a boycott of all of MLA Sundarlal’s programmes, blocking his entry into villages and so on. In fact, a call was given to block the entry of all BJP leaders into villages. On November 1, a Bandh was observed in Jhunjhunu town, on the call of CPI(ML) and other Left groups.

Eventually the Government had to bow before popular protest, and the District Collector visited the Buhana block, met the ‘Shiksha Bachao Sangharsh Samiti’ leaders and conceded their demands. Mr. Gangaram was transferred back to the Kuhadvas school with immediate effect; and Amarsingh Dhanak, who got a bullet in his leg, was given compensation of Rs. 10,000. An enquiry was ordered into the whole incident, and the Deputy Commissioner was transferred. The cases against the 26 people would be investigated by the CID and would be taken back.

The Sangharsh Samiti invited CPI(ML) leader Phoolchand Dheva to Kuhadvcas on November 2, and it was he who opened the locks on the school gates. Mr. Gangaram entered the school premises after 29 days. School children and villagers alike rejoiced, even as the Sangharsh Samiti declared that the movement and the boycott of BJP leaders would continue till the false cases against protestors were withdrawn.

The determination of people not to lose their beloved educator, and not to allow him to be victimized, ensured the success of this struggle.

— Phoolchand Dheva