The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Obey VHP, lose out on school

Rampurhat, March 28: Reconverted to Hinduism by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), about 60 tribal children have been left without education for the past three years as no alternative arrangement has been provided for them by the organisation.

It was on February 27, 2000, that the VHP had held a re-conversion drive at Bhatina village in this area of Birbhum district. At least 35 tribal families who had embraced Christianity were brought back into the Hindu fold after a huge yagna.

Soon after the ceremony, about 60-odd children who were studying at the Don Bosco school in Narayanpur were asked by the local VHP leadership not to attend classes.

Since then, many of these children have been forced to work as farm labourers and garage helpers.

“The VHP lured us with lofty promises when we were asked to embrace Hindusim three years ago, but barring a dhoti, which we were given at the yagna, nothing has been done to help us lead a better life,” said Bharat Mandi, a blind man who was present at the ceremony three years ago. He said repeated pleas to the leaders to alleviate their poverty and arrange for their children’s education has had no effect.

Mandi said both his son and daughter were studying at the Don Bosco school, but now they don’t go to any school and instead work as farm labourers to make ends meet.

The VHP leadership, however, claims that the tribals only want to make their children work instead of sending them to schools. “We run schools in areas adjacent to Bhatina and Narayanpur, (but) they just do not want to go there,” said Subhasis Chowdhury, the BJP municipal commissioner at Rampurhat who was the Birbhum district VHP secretary in 2000.

Sitting in a small tyre-repairing shop, 15-year-old Babu Hembram said: “I used to study in Class IV in Don Bosco, but ever since my parents re-converted I have been taken out of school. My friends who remained in the school have all been sent to other institutions to study in higher classes, I earn twenty rupees a day now.”

The Don Bosco school authorities were not willing to comment on the issue.

“I took charge here two years ago and know very little of what had happened the year before, but there are dropouts in our school after Class IV, so I cannot comment on whether the children were asked to leave our school,” said Father Bimal Hembram of the Narayanpur Don Bosco.

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