While the situation may not have drastically changed over five years, a school in a small hamlet of Surendranagar has surely raised hope for better days for dalit students.
The residential upper primary school started by Navsarjan Trust, a voluntary organization that works for dalit rights, has 24 non dalit children of the total 59 who study and live there. This phenomenon, according to activists, is not a small achievement, especially in Surendranagar which is one of the 11 districts in the state that is sensitive in terms of atrocities against dalits.
“For the first time since 2005 when we started three residential schools in Gujarat, dalit students have gained acceptance from those castes who earlier shunned them due to widely prevalent untouchability,” said Martin Macwan of Navsarjan.
Last year, two children from Bharvad community enrolled in the school. Bharvads belong to Other Backward Communities (OBC). “This year, the number has swelled to 24, which is remarkable,” he said, adding that the school is modelled on education for social re-engineering.
Parents of non dalit families were ready to send their children to our school but were adamant on not allowing them to stay with dalit students in the hostel.
Gopal Mundhra, a class V student from Bharvad community, said, “There may be untouchability in my village but neither me nor my parents believe in this. I enjoy studying here.”
The school has started a campaign “No Plastic No Caste’ to give out a message that just like plastic even caste system should be destroyed.