ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Religion and Relief

The following excerpts from an open letter from the staff and students of Nirmala Niketan School of Social Work, Mumbai, to the president of India should interest EPW’s readers:

“In consultation with Gauri Kumar, the principal secretary to the government of Gujarat’s education department, 138 volunteers comprising students, teaching and non-teaching staff went to Gujarat from February 9-20, 2001 to help rebuild the community. Reactivating the schools and conducting surveys of the affected villages were some of the tasks undertaken by the group, who were spread out in Gandhidham, Bhachau, Morvi, Anjar and Rapar... the students surveyed 221 villages in Bhachau taluka [and] were able to collect affected children and teachers to restart 14 schools. Though we were greeted with a lot of respect and love from most of the local people, one of the disheartening experiences we faced was that almost everywhere we were questioned about our religious identity. This interrogation was carried out quite aggressively by various outfits of the Sangh parivar: in some places by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, in others it was either the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the Bajrang Dal who identified themselves as such. In Rapar, 20 student volunteers functioning from a base camp in a local girls’ school faced a traumatic situation. They were constantly followed, harassed and their movements were closely scrutinised by a group of Bajrang Dal activists. These activists tested the knowledge of the students regarding Hindu deities, asked them whether they had come to convert the children and even went to the extent of creating physically threatening situations for our girl students – following them everywhere even right up to the toilets. All this created a general atmosphere of fear in which the students found it impossible to function. The Bajrang Dal activists were allegedly doing this for fear of conversions – just because in this group of Indian citizens, some of us were Christians.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top