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Friday, April 03, 2020

In riot-hit areas of Delhi, schoolkids still look beyond religion

“Our teachers had already told us these things are said by politicians to divide people and that we shouldn’t be affected by them.”

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi | Updated: February 27, 2020 3:46:02 pm
Away from school and under the shadow of widespread violence, children in the region are also learning how to deal with the polarisation and violence in their own ways. (Express photo: Abhinav Saha)

After three days of arson and violence in areas surrounding his neighbourhood in Northeast Delhi’s Maujpur, 15-year-old Sambhav left home for his first-ever board examination on Wednesday morning.

“There was a lot of violence since Sunday, so he was unable to study very well. We locked ourselves inside our homes. He kept running to the windows to see what was happening outside. I thought his exam would get affected by this but he called me and said it went well,” said his mother Meenakshi Singh, waiting for him to return home in the afternoon.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) postponed Wednesday’s Class X and XII board examinations for 86 centres in Northeast Delhi. However, many students in the area study in schools outside the region, including Sambhav, who is a student of DAV Centenary Public School, Chander Nagar.

Schools in Northeast Delhi were shut by the Delhi government on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and all internal exams in the district were postponed as well.

Away from school and under the shadow of widespread violence, children in the region are also learning how to deal with the polarisation and violence in their own ways.

As the tense atmosphere calmed down on Wednesday, three teenagers — Shoaib (16), Sameer (17) and Akash (19) — made their way to their friend Vinay’s house in Gurudwara mohalla. Together, they are a quartet of best friends. Shoaib, Sameer and Vinay are classmates in Class XI at Jafrabad Public School.

“As we were stuck in our homes during the violence, we called each other up to ask if everyone was fine. We have many students of both religions in our class and we’re all friends,” said Shoaib.

When asked if they understood why the violence had happened, Sameer said, “Our teachers had already told us these things are said by politicians to divide people and that we shouldn’t be affected by them.”

Similarly, on Tuesday evening, Vipan Kumar (12), a student of Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Ghonda, made two calls — one to his teacher to inquire if school was shut for a few more days, and another to his classmate Ayan to inquire if he was okay. “I asked ‘Ayan, ‘tum theek ho?’ and he asked me ‘tum theek ho naa?’ He is okay. He lives in Noor Ilahi in Shahdara. Our teachers have taught us that ‘Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isai’.”

For others, the polarisation is likely to extend to their friendships ahead. Madhu Agarwal has twin sons, Shivansh and Divyansh, studying in Class VII at Victor Public School in Maujpur. She plans to change their school in the coming academic years as “there are two many Muslims in the school”.

“The children are friends with each other but we have asked them to stay away from Muslim children, even after they return to school after this. They may not understand all this but they might learn gandi baat from them,” she said. All schools in Northeast Delhi will continue to remain shut on Thursday.

The CBSE announced that the Class XII English board exam scheduled to take place on Thursday stands postponed as well. Schools have also been targeted during the course of the violence, with schools being burnt in Khajuri Khas, Shiv Vihar and Brijpuri.

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