School shut in pathalgadi rerun

A Khunti village shut down a local state-run school and angawadi centre on Thursday, vowing not to send children there either for studies or to receive healthcare as a part of intermittent self-rule protests by tribals modelled on pathalgadi, the age-old custom of honouring forefathers by erecting boulders in their name.

By SUDHIR KUMAR MISHRA in Ranchi
  • Published 21.04.18
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Ranchi: A Khunti village shut down a local state-run school and angawadi centre on Thursday, vowing not to send children there either for studies or to receive healthcare as a part of intermittent self-rule protests by tribals modelled on pathalgadi, the age-old custom of honouring forefathers by erecting boulders in their name.

But 24 hours later on Friday deputy commissioner Suraj Kumar ordered a probe into the protest and ordered officials to ensure that the name of the school in Kurunga village of Arki block be repainted after it had been wiped out by the protesters using limestone.

Kumar vowed to take action against the protesters once their identity was established by the probe.

None of the 36 students on roll reported for class on Friday at the lone state-run middle school at the village, about 40km from the district headquarters and 80km from Ranchi. The school has one teacher and one para-teacher.

On Thursday, villagers erased the name of the school and chased away the teachers. Then they held a meeting on the premises and declared that henceforth, they would not send children to the school.

They said they would set up their own adivasi board to frame a syllabus, conduct examinations and award degrees. They also resolved to shut down all state-run schools in the area and announced that they would not avail of any government benefits, including free vaccination and diet supplements for children.

District superintendent of education Suresh Chandra Ghosh, who is conducting the inquiry, said the protest would not last. " Pathalgadi supporters did the same thing at another middle school in nearby Pahantoli village recently. But now, children are coming for classes regularly. "Thirty-five children are enrolled in that school. All had come for classes today (Friday). On Wednesday 24 children were present and on Thursday 25," he said.

But Ghosh admitted that the none of the students of the Karunga middle school were present on Thursday and Friday. "Only three children had come on Wednesday. We have spoken to the gram sabha and school management committee and asked them to get the school's name painted again. They haven't locked the school," he said, adding that a CRPF team visited the school on Friday and confirmed that the situation was peaceful.

Khunti, where opium fields are as scenic as they are sinister, has been at the forefront of pathalgadi protests that began sometime in the end of last year. Villagers set up huge stone slabs embossed with diktats banning the government, its agencies and outsiders, demarcating an unofficial frontier where the state's rule ended and the gram sabhas' began.

Till date, protests have been held in 28 of villages of the district. Protest have also been held at Seraikela-Kharsawan and East Singhbhum.

On the Thursday's protests in Khunti, deputy commissioner Kumar opined that pathalgarhi supporters had taken advantage of the district administration's preoccupation with the municipal elections and Jharkhand Academic Council examinations.

He vowed to apprehend the protestors soon. "Most pathalgarhi leaders are already behind bars. We will round up the remaining few soon. I am waiting for the inquiry report. Now that the municipal polls and board exams are over, we can depute adequate number of security personnel to deal with any eventualities," he told The Telegraph.