It was 1.30 p.m. in Nuh’s Kherla village. On a humid day, Hindi teacher Saad Miyan was explaining to Class III students how to write two-letter words.
His class was attended by only seven students, who wondered why their friends were not coming to the school.
According to the school authorities, around 1,600 students study there. However, after a communal clash on July 31 in the village, only 100-200 children now come to the school daily.
Drop in attendance
While many lives have been hit, it is the women and children who are bearing the brunt of the violence. Many schools around violence-hit areas have seen a drop in attendance as most Muslim families fear that their children would be picked up by the police.
Kherla school principal Rehmuddin said most families have left for their native places and those who stayed back are afraid of search operations by the police. He added that his schoolteachers are planning on how to approach a certain section of the village and bring back the children to the school.
“Most families are uneducated here. They dream of sending their children to cities like Delhi and Gurugram, but who has the money? The only thing that can save Mewat’s Nuh and neighbouring areas is education,” Mr. Rehmuddin said.
Most families are left with only women members now, he said, adding that the men have either left the area or are in police custody. “The presence of paramilitary forces has scared children.”
As he stood in front to the school, Riyaz Khan*, 50, said his daughters, aged 15 and 12, are not attending the school anymore.
They are instead studying at home. “I’m scared they will arrest me and that my family won’t even get to know about it,” he said.
Zaina*, a resident of Hidayat Colony near Kherla, said it has been three weeks since her 12-year-old son touched his books.
“I heard another rally is being organised. At a time like this, do we need another communal situation? Why can’t both communities understand we don’t have the means to bear this much violence? Let the people of Nuh live in peace. Our children and women have been locked inside homes for weeks now. If the situation deteriorates, who will bear the responsibility?” Ms. Zaina said.
In Nalhar, a village close to Kherla, the fear in the air is palpable. Nazia*, 15, who took up science to be able to enrol for a BSc programme, had to miss her half-yearly exams due to her parents’ fear.
“I am too scared to go out. I can either be safe or take exams. There is no other option. When the temple in Nalhar was attacked, I was inside my house with my two younger brothers. I hid them and locked the doors. I know what terror is. I was looking forward to taking my exams, but I don’t know what to do now,” she rued.
“All the men have left Nalhar. Just the women are left. The school is empty. I keep telling myself that all children will come back, but I don’t know when,” said a worker at Nalhar Government Primary School.
(*Names changed to protect identity)