After two months without three subject teachers and futile assurances from the principal, Priyanka Swami and her friends in Class X of a government school in Rajasthan’s Tonk district decided to do what the boys in nearby schools and colleges often did: protest. However, things went wrong very soon. Priyanka and nine others landed in a hospital after a “brutal” cane charge by the station house officer of the local station, who they alleged was “intoxicated.”
“We didn’t have any teachers in our class on Monday. So we decided to block the main road near our school on Tuesday morning to demand for teachers. We had often seen boys sit on a protest,” said Priyanka, now recuperating at a government hospital in Tonk. Ever since the new session had started on July 1, her class didn’t have teachers for Sanskrit, social science and English. “When we took it up with our principal, he gave us assurances, but no teacher ever showed up,” said Manisha Saini of Class VIII, sitting beside Priyanka at Saadat hospital. They are students of Rajkiya Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Chooru village of Uniara tehsil.
For a school with 291 students and classes 1 to XI — class XI introduced only this year — the school had only five teachers, one of whom was in line for transfer. So, at a time, only five classes could run, while six others would be idle.
“There has always been a dearth but it is up to the officers sitting in Jaipur,” said principal Ram Vilas. He said the situation worsened when the school was converted from higher secondary to senior secondary this year. “I sought appointment of additional teachers from the District Education Officer (DEO) but the response wasn’t encouraging,” he said.
On Tuesday, at 7:30 am, a bus coming from Sawai Madhopur and going towards Tonk was stopped on NH 116 by the students, who were from classes VI-XI. Within 20 minutes, Aligarh police station SHO Amar Singh arrived with two constables. “He did not even listen to us and started flailing his stick at us,” said Kali Meena, a student of Class IX, who was allegedly hit on her neck and back by Singh. “As they cane charged us, we ran towards the villages and our school,” said Manisha.
However, some were unlucky. Manraje Meena of Class IX said she was pulled by her hair and pushed off a small bridge, nearly 12 foot. As her elder sister Narajee Meena, in Class X, rushed to save her, she too was hit on her head. “He was heavily drunk and pulled our clothes and abused us,” alleged Ekanta Meena of Class VIII.
As the girls ran back to the villages, the villagers came out in their support, allegedly hurling bricks at the police, even as more policemen arrived. Things calmed down only after village elders and officials from the district administration arrived.
Later, an FIR under various IPC sections — 147 (punishment for rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 332 (deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and National Highways Act was registered against the students and villagers.
Outraged at the cane charge, several organisations led by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Wednesday demanded an FIR against the policemen. They said that rather than being “heartened” at such a protest, the police broke them with a cane charge.
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