Other States

Hostel for Pardhi children forced shut amid charges of conversion

The Pardhis, a denotified tribal community of Maharashtra, have protested against the alleged forcible closure of a hostel set up to facilitate English medium education in Yavatmal district. The police allegedly did not register an FIR for nearly a fortnight after the incident and are yet to take action.

“The politicians in that area do not want us to work for Pardhis. One politician told me directly that if I want, I should take up projects for the welfare of the animals, but not for the Pardhis. ‘These are unreliable people. There is no use working for them,’ she told me,” Nitin Bhimrao Sardar, chairperson, Dinbandhu Shikshan Va Samajik Sanstha, Yavatmal, told The Hindu on Saturday. The cited local politician denied the allegation.

“My father lived like an animal. He did not even have clothes to wear. Today, I can wear clothes, but I have no education. The fate of our community is to beg. All we want is that our children should not suffer this fate. We don’t ask for anything else. Only open schools for our children, give them the opportunity to learn in an English medium school. Let them have decent jobs,” Prakash Phulmali, deputy Sarpanch of Gopalnagar in Yavatmal’s Ralegaon Tehsil, said.

On June 16, a group of men, allegedly led by a prominent local politician Jambuwantrao Dhote and armed with hockey sticks and sickles, approached the hostel run by the Dinbandhu Shikshan Sanstha at 11.30 p.m. Around 20 children in the age group five to eight were in the hostel then.

“They threatened the staff members and told the children to go back to their homes. They asked the members to shut down the hostel or face dire consequences,” Dilip Ghawde, member of Satyashodhak Samaj (a movement for liberation of untouchables), who is associated with the project, said.

The next day, the staff members and the activists of Dinbandhu Shikshan Sanstha complained to the police. When no FIR was registered, they submitted a written complaint on June 18. Interestingly, the complaint does not mention that the accused threatened the staff against running the hostel for the Pardhi children.“The accused uprooted the cement and iron poles marking our field, and threatened the labourers. Since it is sowing season, we request you to protect our staff and labourers working in the field,” Mr. Sardar wrote to the Ladkhed police station on June 18, a copy of which is with The Hindu.

A similar incident again took place on June 30, Mr. Sardar alleged, after which they pressured the police to investigate it.

Thereafter, the FIR was registered on July 1. It stated that Nagpur MP Jambuwantrao Dhote and a few persons forcibly entered the hostel and threatened the staff of dire consequences.

Mr. Dhote has, however, denied the allegations. Talking to The Hindu from Nagpur, he said he never forced shut any hostel for the Pardhi children. “I am myself a leader of the Pardhis. I have constructed homes for them. I do not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion. But Sardar and his brother are traitors. They get funds from America and lure people into conversion to Christianity. I have always opposed such forcible conversions and will keep on opposing them,” he told The Hindu.

On June 29, his driver registered a counter-complaint against Mr. Sardar for allegedly threatening him.

Ranjan Sharma, SP Yavatmal police, said the primary dispute was about land ownership. The claim has been denied by both parties.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 1:53:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/hostel-for-pardhi-children-forced-shut-amid-charges-of-conversion/article3643422.ece

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