JAIPUR: Instances of Dalit and tribal children being made to sit and eat separately from others, being denied admission in schools, facing punishment without any reason and forced to perform humiliating tasks were among the cases highlighted at a public hearing here over the weekend. About a dozen children from seven districts of Rajasthan narrated their stories on the occasion.
The public hearing, organised jointly by the Centre for Dalit Rights and National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), found that Dalit children were facing obstacles to education and the mental and physical abuse endured by them had resulted in an increase in their drop-out rates from both government and private schools.
Dilip Jatav, 12, from Nagar in Bharatpur district said he was beaten up when he protested against the diktat of higher caste students to not come to school from the next day. Manju, nine, of Government Upper Primary School, Kumher, said she lost the vision in one eye when the headmistress thrashed her for roaming around with other children on the school premises.
The parents of 14-year-old Mamta, who went missing in June 2015, narrated their ordeal as the police have been unable to trace their daughter despite the high court’s order on their habeas corpus petition. A Dalit family said it was forced to make compromise in a criminal case after the people of a dominant caste thrashed their child when they took part in a Kalash Yatra in Motuka village of Dausa district.
The detailed facts of as many as 15 cases relating to Dalit and tribal children were presented before a jury comprising former Rajasthan High Court Judge N.K. Jain, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) members Jaishri Garg and Seema Joshi, social activist Annie Namala and others. Two students, Hasina and Anil, also formed part of the jury.
A report titled “Exclusion in schools: A study on practice of discrimination and violence”, which has been published by NDMJ and the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, was also released on the occasion. The two organisations have launched a “zero discrimination in school education” campaign across the country.
After hearing the cases of caste discrimination in schools, including the blatant practice of untouchability by teachers, the members of the jury called for immediate intervention by SCPCR and free legal aid to the victims to help them pursue the matters against the perpetrators in the courts.
Justice Jain said the SCPCR should carry out an “audit exercise” of the treatment meted out to children in all educational institutions and the state government should issue guidelines on the basis of audit report. Besides, counselling centres should be established at schools and police stations to help such children cope with the situation and focus on their studies.