Writers, artists, professors come out on street: ‘Give our kids their school back’

The protesters are accusing the school management of uprooting their children from a “place they loved and cherished” and causing them massive “emotional trauma”.

Written by Ankita Dwivedi Johri | New Delhi | Updated: July 16, 2015 10:00 am
Mirambika school, Mirambika protests, Mirambika Free Progress School, Mirambika school students, Sri Aurobindo Education Society, India latest news Parents and Mirambika students demonstrate on Tuesday night. (Source: Tashi Tobgyal)

There is no angry sloganeering, no outburst in unparliamentary language, no police, not even a barricade. Instead, there are modern tents, chairs, food and water supplies and even a mosquito repellent spray for the protesters. While it is a far cry from the street demonstration one seen so often, it is still a dharna against a “stubborn” management.

Some 30 parents of students of Mirambika Free Progress School have been camping 24×7 outside its premises in the heart of south Delhi for a week, questioning the management’s decision of shifting their wards to an “under-construction” building after the summer break. The school was vacated for the construction of an engineering college in the area.

“This is not why we put our kids here. This is not in line with the ecosystem for progressive education that was promised to us,” says Ajay Jugran, a lawyer.

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The protesters, mostly writers, artists, journalists, lawyers and professors, are accusing the school management of uprooting their children from a “place they loved and cherished” and causing them massive “emotional trauma”.

Mirambika, which has 151 students and 49 teachers today, was started by the Sri Aurobindo Education Society in 1981. It has no structured syllabus, no uniforms, teachers who are referred to as diya (a blended form of didi and bhaiya) who work on a voluntary basis with no salary, and classes that are not numbered 1 to 10 but have names such as ‘Courage’ and ‘Endurance’.

“It was this vision of integrated and spiritual learning that prompted us to put our children here, not what is being offered now,” says Jugran.

On April 13-14, the students had been shifted to Aurobindo Ashram from the original school building. The parents say this was done “overnight” but parent representative Vikrant Abrol, a former student of the school, argues that “parents were told by the management about the need to shift because the land was allotted by Delhi Development Authority for a college”.

On May 2, some parents moved Delhi High Court, which stayed the construction of the college on May 6. On May 26, 58 parents and 39 teachers filed an intervening application supporting Aurobindo Society’s plans. But on May 31, eight of these parents asked for their names to be removed, accusing the management of “misleading” them, “They come from educated backgrounds, didn’t they read the document?” says one of the parents backing the management.

The second shift came on July 1, to a new building on the same compound after the school reopened. “This is an unsafe, unauthorised venue located above a commercial kitchen and a shopping arcade,” says Bhumi Gajjar, a design researcher whose child studies in the Blue group. “The DDA chief legal adviser’s opinion received via RTI confirms the legality of the school and illegality of the engineering college,” she adds.

The issue of approvals from DDA, the department of education and AICTE for the college has added to the confusion. “On March 20, the entire school was sent on an all-paid-for picnic, the same day AICTE conducted an inspection for the proposed college,” said Deepak Gopinath, a writer and economic analyst, whose child goes to the school.

The parents allege the school has been talking about an “invented threat” from DDA to justify shifting the students. “There has been a showcause notice by DDA served to the school and this document has been shown to the parents,” counters Kunal Sinha, whose child has been studying at Mirambika for seven years.

An anonymous blog (savemirambika. wordpress.com) with updates in the case has come up, which members close to the management claim has been put up by the protesting parents to “malign” them. None of the protesting parents has taken responsibility for this blog. “It is not a ‘save Mirambika’ but a ‘finish Mirambika’ blog, it is sowing seeds of distrust,” says one parent not among the protesters.

Pranjal Jauhar, a grandson of the founder of the Delhi branch of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and now the vice-chairman of the ashram, has so far refused to comment on the controversy. “Even in the meeting that the management had with parents on April 21, Pranjal stayed for just 10 minutes,” says Deepak Gopinath.

The principal of the school, Jayanthi didi, said says had “no comments” till the trial continues. “Students are getting disturbed because of the hyperactivity of some of the parents. It’s an attention-seeking activity, more about the entitlement of the parents than the students,” says Bhatia.

The protesters are showing no signs of budging yet. Some of them have begun a fast to press their demands. A hearing in the case is scheduled for July 17, “but whatever the outcome we will continue our fight”, vows one of the parents.

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  1. B
    Jul 16, 2015 at 8:42 am
    I have a question for Mr. Bhatia...regarding the quote about enlement of parents...how would you react if you were vacated from your office or home to make space for thousands of homeless living on the streets of Delhi. Would you accept it as divines wish???
    1. M
      Jul 16, 2015 at 9:38 am
      Parents from all walks of life including EWS parents are protesting. Not sure why the emphasis is on "writers, artists and professors"?
      1. K
        Kumar d.
        Jul 16, 2015 at 9:53 am
        The children of mirambika have been made to attend school in a building that has no appropriate fire exit. Aside from the fact that the shifting out of the children was illegal and atrocious, they are in a space that is dangerous. Parents are asking if something were to happen - who would be held responsible? Why are they spending even one second in a building that is not fire safe?
        1. W
          Worried parent
          Jul 16, 2015 at 9:29 am
          The children of mirambika miss their school, they have been stuffed into a building which has NO approvals and IS NOT fire safe, their rightful school campus lies vacant and awaits their return. They cannot understand why the school is not moving back? Nor can the parents. As now the DDA have given in writing that it is legal and encouraged that the school moves back, does that not mean that the management concocted the DDA threat? Is this how school children are meant to be treated? Please help us and our children move back to a safe campus. Every day in this illegal building threatens the safety of our children.
          1. T
            troubled parent
            Jul 16, 2015 at 10:44 am
            It's absolutely disheartening to see the kids who once loved their beautiful school more than anything else, who did not want to leave school to go home everyday and parents had a tough time getting them off campus, today rush out the moment school is done. Mirambika was more important than home to them. The building symbolised a lot and carried to a great deal the spirit of mirambika. Unfortunately some can't see that and see it as just a building that some parents feel enlement to...its just sad.
            1. A
              anupama chib
              Jul 16, 2015 at 8:28 am
              Dear Ankita, they are not 30 parents, There are more than triple than the number you have mentioned .We can't all be there at the same time So u just see approx 30 or even fewer than 30 at times. Yes we do hv tents, food and water. We hv the tents so we are using them. Didn't get them specially fr the dharna. Food and water would be required where there are children and parents. Everyone contributes in whatever way they can . Main point is that there was gross injustice n immense lies. We just want our children in their rightful environment, which is the original Mirambika building where our children were before 14 th April. Parents have always been an integral part of Mirambika so yes, we feel hurt and wronged too. As much as our children do.
              1. A
                Arijit Ghosh
                Jul 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm
                There is a functional kitchen with a live gas pipeline that runs along the walls of the new building! The Department of Education still gives a clean chit to the new building because the director Padmini Singla's own children study in Mothers International School (also run by SAES). Who said corruption is down in Kejriwal's government? It is coming out in the form of quid-pro-quo favors to carry out grave injustice to small children. Find out the w story at
                1. A
                  Aumlaan Gooho
                  Jul 16, 2015 at 10:53 am
                  Mirambika Free Progress School is one of the finest in the country, unique in myriad aspects, not least of which is its very structure - or rather the lack of it. Instead of being nourished & nurtured, it is sought to be sacrificed on the altar of greed. A crying shame. A real tragedy... it beggars belief how low people can stoop.
                  1. D
                    Jul 16, 2015 at 8:38 am
                    Actually what Mr. Bhatia meant is “Students are getting disturbed because of the misfortunate adventure of the enlightened and so called divine(?!) school management, realtor and some of its fan following parents. This is purely a profit-seeking activity, more about the en-richment of the management than the students,”
                    1. H
                      Harsh Vardhan
                      Jul 16, 2015 at 9:37 am
                      Dear Kunal Sinha, I didn't expect you to be speaking just the convieient part of the truth and hiding the inconvinient part, after the 2-3 hr discussion we had 3-4 days back. You and another fellow parent supporting the management, came with the doubts about Show Cause Notice ( SCN) of the DDA. we discussed at length how it does not oppose the school and only the Engineering College. we also discussed at length how the DDA's Chief legal Advisor (CLA) clarification has given clean chit to the School and objected to the Engineering college. It further shows that the Administrative head agreed with the CLA's opinion and asked for a SCN being drafted on the basis of the CLA's clarification( about which you have talked above). Then why are you just talking of the SCN's copy being given to the parent and not that a copy of the DDA CLA's clarification, out in the public domain through an RTI, was also given by the parents to the Management, to which the management has still not responded. I don't understand you, as a parent, are supporting the School or , as a supporter of the management , are supporting the Engineering college since the news article quotes you as parent. Vikrant Abrol, you have also talked of the DDA THREAT. Now with the DDA's clarification and SCN we have all the required clarification. SO shift the school back to its real campus.
                      1. J
                        Jul 16, 2015 at 10:03 am
                        So unfortunate, the new Management trying to destroy the amazing school nurtured by their own forefathers! Shocking attempt of Management to devoid 'Integral Education' of 'Integrity' itself!
                        1. S
                          Jul 16, 2015 at 7:19 am
                          What the management and certain authorities like AICTE and DOE are doing seems to be Criminal. I wonder if someone is going to pursue some criminal charges against them as well.
                          1. S
                            Smita Lal
                            Jul 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm
                            It is so unfortunate to see Mirambika in this condition. I visited Mirambika a few times between 2008 and 2013, I recall it as a garden of heaven where Children, Geese, Chipmunks, Butterflies kept enjoying the welcoming the open atmosphere around. I appeal to all conscious human being of this world to get the Mirambika building and the environment back to the children.
                            1. S
                              Jul 16, 2015 at 7:25 am
                              Children of Mirambika miss 24-yr-old campus An article in Times of India
                              1. S
                                Jul 16, 2015 at 7:20 am
                                I have full faith in the Judiciary to do the needful. I understand that the High Court Hearing is on 17th July. Hope the honourable Judge can understand all the facts and see through the conspiracy from the management, and save the beautiful school and its children. HOW LONG WILL THE KIDS HAVE TO SUFFER?
                                1. S
                                  Jul 16, 2015 at 8:26 am
                                  It's not just a small group of parents who are protesting the injustice that was done to the children. There are many more parents who are protesters and who support the dharna, but they are afraid to come and sit with us. Why? Because they are afraid. They are afraid of being targeted by the ashram management. Fear is a powerful weapon. The ashram management used the threat to the land by DDA to justify their illegal and clandestine overnight move on April 13th. They used the fear of closing down the school to silence parents. They mislead parents to sign intervention peion. They know how to divide the parents. Please do more digging to tell the full story. The parents who have spent 7 days and nights on the pavement are not there to seek attention. They are there for one thing: the rights of the children.
                                  1. K
                                    Kunwar Narayan
                                    Jul 16, 2015 at 10:43 am
                                    Integral Education has no textbooks, syllabus, or predefined curriculum. The focus is on learning by doing, by exploring, and through song, dance, experiementation, worshops, labs, etc. The new matchbox building lacks any common spaces and as such is the death of intergral education as envisioned by the mother, and for all pratical purposes of the Mirambika School. Shree Aurobindo Society, driven by the impatient young nephew, after the death of his uncle, is a man in hurry and his ambition is to become big. He forgets that he, and his organization is the custodian of the mothers' and Shree Aurobindo's word, and not the lust of modern influences. Mirmabika prior to the incision of 14th April, embodied the moters philosopy, and its structures and spaces built on her symbol. The new building is a service block with a departmental sotre, a bank, a commercial kitchen for the ashram, and a shop on the ground floor and a school on the 1st floor. it is unfit and unsafe for a regular school, let be for that professing to be based on intergral education as envisioned by the mothr.
                                    1. V
                                      Jul 16, 2015 at 9:21 am
                                      the children have been moved from an approx 10 acre campus to approx 500 sq yards- how will, how can anyone justify that? A large campus is essential for the practise of Integral education and based upon the Mothers vision. At the onset of a child's admission, the school pronounces the chd and parent as equal partners, collaborating with the school to realise the vision of raising children in a very deeply rooted in nature, holistic manner. And then, most suddenly 2 of this 3 partner team are literally shafted overnight, in a non- negotiable manner. The children are raised at Mirambika from day one to revere their school as their sacred home, to befriend even the trees that grow there... if that is the culture you are creating, can you truly uproot them from this very deep connection to their school? Today, this talk of parents enlent is false and hollow... we as partners of the school spend a vast amount of time enabling the mothers vision of integral and progressive education by giving up our careers, travelling long distances because the school has no transport etc in our commitment to the school. This is not am ordinary school shift- it is most primarily the dismantling of the mothers vision, of which the managent are custodians. they need to ask themselves, would the mother approve of the manner they have behaved? and most critically, of the unilateral decision they have taken, based on a fear that has now been repeatedly addressed and proven false... because of their own interests to sound the death knell of a most beautiful and precious school is nothing short of murder. nothing short of murder. nothing.
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