Vidyasagar legacy lost in sands of time

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By GAUTAM SARKAR
  • Published 25.08.03
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Karmatar (Jamtara), Aug. 25: Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s long association with Karmatar, a sleepy hamlet about 20 km from the district headquarters of Jamtara, seems to have been forgotten by the people of the state.

Vidyasagar came to Karmatar in 1873 and spent more than 18 years of his life here. He had set up a girls’ school and a night school for adults on the premises of his house, which he called Nandan Kanan.

However, now the house is in a shambles. The local wing of the RSS has been using the ground in front of the building for their daily drill and the BJP district unit is planning to set up its party office inside Nandan Kanan.

A portion of the building has been occupied by the family members of one Kartik Mondal, whose grandfather used to be a servant in Vidyasagar’s house. Most of its windows and doors have been stolen by villagers.

Vidyasagar had waged a battle to abolish child marriage and advocated widow remarriage among tribals in the village.

However, two years ago a tribal boy was killed in Karmatar because he wished to marry a widow. The incident was shocking as 130 years ago, 24 child widows were remarried by Vidyasagar here.

Sources said following the killing of the tribal boy, the Calcutta-based Biswakosh Parisad, a voluntary organisation, stopped its grant to the girls’ school in Nandan Kanan.

“The organisation stopped the financial aid to the school two years ago. Now we are facing difficulty running the school, which has 300 students and eight teachers,” said chairman of the school’s managing committee Arun Kumar Basu.

Mihir Ranjan Dutta, a teacher of the school, said they had not received salaries for the past two years. Ironically, the school’s curriculum does not have Bengali as a subject though the language is spoken by 87 per cent of the people in the area. Vidysagar’s Barna Parichoy, which teaches the ABC of Bengali, is also not available in the area.

Earlier, local JMM legislator Shasankh Shekar Vokta had donated funds for the repair and renovation of the school building.

However, after the first floor was repaired the funds stopped coming. “We fear that the building might be occupied either by the RSS or the BJP as they have started using the house for party work,” said Dutta.

Bimal Ray, a resident of Karmatar, alleged that ministers from West Bengal, who visit the area, pay no heed to their pleas to save Nandan Kanan.

He said seven years ago, West Bengal transport minister Subhash Chakroborty had inaugurated Bhagawagti Bhavan in the name of Vidyasagar’s mother. But no efforts were taken to maintain it.

“We need money to repair Nandan Kanan. No one seems to care about us. The minister and officials from West Nengal come here to inaugurate functions. But when it comes to doing something concrete they do nothing,” alleged Basu.

The local residents are now pinning their hopes on the Bihar Bengali Academy, which purchased a portion of Nandan Kanan in 1976 from Singhadas Mallik to whom the property was sold by Narayanchandra, the son of Vidyasagar.

Joint secretary of the academy Mani Kumar Roy has urged the Jharkhand chapter to take immediate steps to save Vidyasagar’s legacy.