Maheshwar Murmu (right) with the children from Dumaria at Tatanagar station where they were taken to see trains on Tuesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
The pen is mightier than firearms. And a bus ride to a city can open up a new journey for children from rebel-hit pockets.
Former CPI(Maoist) area commander Maheshwar Murmu (37), now championing children’s education in rebel-hit Dumaria block, Ghatshila subdivision, around 80km from Jamshedpur, was in the city on Tuesday for a daylong exposure trip for 85 children.
The visitors, put up at Tribal Culture Centre, Sonari, went around the city, Jubilee Park, Tata zoo and the station.
“These children haven’t seen a train, a hotel or even a car in their life,” said the former rebel who had surrendered before then East Singhbhum SP Arun Oraon at Ghatshila in July 2003 and served time at Ghatshila and Ghaghidih prisons till July 2009.
Out of prison, the former rebel, a matriculate, did some soul-searching and plunged into something he believed in.
“Four months ago, I teamed up with a local vet Bablu Sundi to start Bishon Marshal Apke Dwar in Dumaria (bishon and marshal mean effort and light in Santhali, while apke dwar is the Hindi for ‘at your doorstep’),” said Maheshwar.
Bishon Marshal Apke Dwar caters to students of Lango (which shot into fame in 2003 when villagers lynched 12 Maoists), Dublabera, Rangamatia, Gomro and Badalkocha villages in Dumaria block. It plans to impart education till plus two and help students appear for board exams through Dumaria Uchha Vidyalaya.
“Right now, we are conducting classes from 7am to noon on Saturday and Sunday for 110 children on a courtyard. But we will increase the time and impart vocational training in animal husbandry and agriculture. We are seeking government help,” said Maheshwar.
Maheshwar, who took to Naxalism to “protect his ancestral property from being taken up by relatives”, said he learnt the hard way that “waging a war against the state is futile”. “Instead, know one’s rights and the means to exercise them through education,” he said.
An insider in every sense of the term, the former rebel pointed out why village youths join rebel ranks. “They lose faith in the mainstream due to administrative callousness. They are not educated, they don’t have infrastructure or opportunity, they don’t know their rights or the way to a better life,” he said.
He doesn’t want GeNext to live his life, he says.
It may just work.
Thanks to Maheshwar, Sadhu Paharia (14) stepped out of Badalkocha for the first time and stared at trains and the digital display board at Tatanagar. Scared to see a train chugging in, he defended himself manfully. “Hum itni badi gadi nahin dekhe hain (I haven’t seen such a big train before).”
Eight-year-old Kamal Sardar was too dazed to speak. Perhaps, for the first time, he was discovering the tracks to endless possibilities.