Seventeen-year-old Mohammed Mobashshir Sarwar will be observing an anniversary on Tuesday. “I was expelled exactly a year ago from Jamia Senior Secondary School for my ‘unending misbehaviour and indiscipline'. At least that's what it says on the expulsion notice, but I think the fact that I have filed 100 RTI applications had something to do with it,” he quips.
Sarwar was first served a show-cause notice when he was 11 years. “They were serving us these stale rotis during Sairi, which is the early morning meal during the month of Ramzan. I went directly to the Principal with my grievance,” he says, adding: “Instead of making things right, they served a notice asking me to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against me, telling me that I had violated the hostel norms by going directly to the Principal.”
Disciplinary action has lost its meaning for Sarwar. “I can't even count the number of times I have heard those words,” he says and goes on to list a few “There was the time when they said I was absconding from the hostel one night and so I would face “disciplinary action” and countless other times.”
Sarwar was angry when someone told him that the school was saving money from the boarding fees for its annual function and was further incensed when he saw many guests he did not recognise helping themselves to dinner. “I don't know who these people were and promptly filed my first RTI application asking about the source of funds.”
The first RTI application was followed by several others, whenever there was a grievance in the hostel, his peers rallied around him. His father who sells shoes in Bihar has no issues with him since his studies have not suffered.
“I wanted to pursue home science but was told I couldn't because I was a boy and that the subject was only meant for girls. Why should I be denied studying something I like just because I am a boy? I filed an RTI asking them if there were any rules banning boys from studying home science. I did not get a reply, just an expulsion notice.”
His expulsion notice tersely informed him that he was expelled with immediate effect and that he would have to clear his things from the hostel within 24 hours. “I was home in Bihar at that time, it was horrible but my local guardian and hostel warden helped,” he said, adding that on returning to Delhi he promptly filed another RTI.
“The RTI reply had a correspondence from the officiating principal. He had stated that my behaviour with other students, the teachers, wardens and principal was not ‘good', that I was blackmailing everyone from the teachers to the watchman and that I was misusing the RTI Act in order to defame the good name of Jamia.”
Sarwar has not given up since then. He filed a writ petition in the High Court which issued a stay order against his expulsion and allowed him to attend classes and write exams. The final hearing is scheduled for January. Meanwhile, he continues to file RTI applications whenever he feels something is amiss in the school.
The school principal could not be contacted.