The President of Congress Party
Date: 6th July, 2010
Subject: Upholding Right to Education: End Occupation of Schools in Jharkhand by CRPF forces.
Dear Ms. Sonia Gandhi,
On April 1st, 2010 India joined the league of over 130 countries which have legal guarantees to provide free and compulsory education to their children. As the country rejoices this significant step towards ensuring the rights of our children and their future the depth and truth behind this claim is seriously questioned when in the same month military occupation of schools in the state of Jharkhand take place under the guise of Operation Green Hunt.
The government has recently announced an integrated action plans for 35 Naxalite-affected districts in nine states; committing Rs 13,742 crore for economic development as well as proper implement of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) out of this Rs 1,602 crore has been earmarked for education. This gesture is meaningless in the light of the fact that existing infrastructure like schools are not being allowed to function as they should.
As of now over 50 school buildings (address and name as well as testimonies from school principals on the nature of occupation attached) in Jharkhand have been taken over by CRPF on a permanent basis and 43 school buildings have been taken over on an off-and-on basis. The Gram Sabha’s consent was not even sought. If schools do not function, the mid-day meal also is not given to children. The sad fact is the mid-day meal is the only ‘full meal’ most children get to eat. Apart from this is the fact that even if the school is not occupied by the para-military forces, their very presence in the vicinity and their brutal behaviour with people has created a fearful atmosphere in the village preventing children from going to school.
In November 2009, the Jharkhand High Court, in response to a petition filed by PUCL-Ranchi, ordered the CRPF to vacate all school buildings within six months. Six months have passed, but the High Court order has not been complied with. On 17 May 2010, CRPF has approached the High Court and asked for an extension of another six months, to which the courts have agreed. The point to ponder is what happens to the children who have been deprived of their school education first for six months, now for another six months? This when the country is touting its commitment to the Right to Education is nothing but hypocrisy.
We solicit your help to make the necessary inquiry into the nature of these occupations and to put pressure on the powers that be to demilitarize schools and declare them as peace zones, in order to uphold the Rights of our future generation. We have already seen the dire consequences of military occupation of schools in countries like Nepal where young people took up arms when all option of democratic participation where closed to them. Schools are the training ground for democracy and non-violence to make them into military cantonment promoting violence as the only solution to the conflict at hand will be condemning a generation of children and dehumanizing them as they become child soldiers.
Civil society groups have been able to compile the list of schools but where denied photographic evidence of this grave violation of the rights of children of the country. To deny schooling and safe space to the children of this region is to send them into the arms of violence and destitution. It is with great urgency and intensity that we the concern citizens of India call upon you to uphold your parties professed mandate of using social economic development as tool to transform the conflict in the region rather than war and violence. The hypocrisy of the situation is evident when existing infrastructure is being used against the people rather than for the people it is not money which will solve the crisis at hand.
We hope that keeping with your commitment to seek non-violent solutions to the conflict by concentrating on the needs of the people of the region especially the future generation and their education you will take the necessary action to protect the children of this region from the throngs of violence and war. We urge you to pay heed to the warning signs and stem this tide of denial and keep our promise to our children before to many of them are lost to the barrel of guns and hatred.
Calling you to action.
With deep Hope.
Dr. Mohini Giri
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Ms. Razia Ismail Abassi
Fr James Toppo