Dowry case in text haunts teacher

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By AYSWARIA VENUGOPAL in Delhi
  • Published 17.09.04
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Nisha Sharma

New Delhi, Sept. 17: Vidya Dalal is upset that the Nisha Sharma dowry incident has shown up again in the unlikeliest of places ? a Class VI textbook for Delhi government schools.

Worse still for Nisha?s once prospective mother-in-law, the text is being taught at Sarvodaya School in Vikaspuri locality, where Vidya was a teacher for long.

Vidya and her son had found themselves in the news last year after Nisha called of her engagement with Munish on the eve of marriage, following what she said were her would-be in-laws? increasing demands for dowry.

Nisha had arguably become a national icon for scores of Indian women harassed for dowry by their present or prospective in-laws.

Vidya and Munish were arrested on the charge of demanding Rs 12 lakh as dowry, among other things. So when the news about the textbook broke earlier this month, the mother and son felt revisited by their humiliation.

?Before I retired, I was a teacher in a Delhi government-aided school. One of its education officers came and told me that this chapter had appeared in the SCERT book,? Vidya said.

?This book is being taught to students in my own (former) school. You don?t know what this has done to me and my family,? she said.

Chapter 14 of the English-language textbook, prepared by the State Council for Educational Research and Training, is titled Man in Jail over Dowry Demand, a reproduction of a news article of May 12, 2003, that shows Vidya as a dowry-seeker.

The text came about just when life had quieted down for Vidya and her family after a year of upheaval, which also saw a barrage of media coverage of the incident.

?My son is very upset. He is still not settled in his (new) job and when he saw today?s paper, he told me, ?Look ma, it has appeared again?,? Vidya said, referring to news articles on the textbook.

Munish was a teacher of computer science at a private school and is now employed with a multinational firm.

The Dalals, however, are not sitting quiet. The family?s lawyer, Roopesh Kumar Sharma, has sued the Delhi government and the education council for defamation.

?I have not committed any mistake,? Vidya said. ?How can a chapter be included in the book ? a lesson ? naming us personally.?

?When I was a teacher, I was a respectable person. I was a winner of the state government awards for teachers. My reputation has gone to the dogs,? claimed Vidya, who has been a teacher for 34 years.

Her lawyer has also taken exception to the cartoon that accompanies the chapter, showing police arresting Munish from the marriage pandal. Munish was arrested at his Vikaspuri home.

Sharma alleged that his client was being denied pension and other retirement benefits. ?They owe me Rs 8 lakh to 9 lakh as retirement benefits,? claimed Vidya.

The SCERT textbook has been published before a case of bigamy and adultery filed by Munish against Nisha has been settled. Nisha, a resident of Noida, is now married to Ashwani Sharma.