Bhubhneshwar, May 20-
The students are on strike from the 9th of this month. On 7th May, Subhadra Murmu, a fourth year nursing intern was allegedly dragged by her hair and beaten up by the School Principal, Kajal Sinha, because she had not knotted her hair in a way a nurse was supposed to do. The principal also used humiliating language while rebuking Subhadra and invoked her adivasi status. As told by Subhadra, the Principal said, ‘You will be here only for one more month. After you leave the hostel, it doesn’t matter to us if you sleep naked with somebody. You are an Adivasi. You come from Mayurbhanj district and here you act very stylish. You belong to lowly caste, you will remain lowly. You are stupid, your parents are also stupid.’
The students said that the Principal using such language is quite common. They have been humiliated for every little mistake. Students belonging to other castes have also been humiliated. Words like ‘Beshya’ and ‘Anarya’ have been used very frequently. Recently, some six/seven students who have not paid their mess dues in time have been humiliated by the by the Principal. She told the students, ‘If you sleep with a man for one hour you can earn an income and pay the dues’. She often says, ‘your baapa, maa have no thikana, how can you have any thikana’, meaning – ‘your parents are of no character, how can you have any character’. What I understood from the discussion is that anger against the Principal was brewing up among students and humiliation of Subhadra triggred them to go for a protest.
Subhadra was beaten up on the 7th. The students met the Principal and asked her to give in writing that such thing would not happen again. She refused to listen to their complaint. On 8th (Sunday) they met the Superintendednt of the College, while he was doing his rounds in the Hospital, and told him about the incident. He asked them to meet him next day and give a written complaint. Next day, the students met the Superintendent with a written complaint but he said, ‘your job is to serve people, so forget about such things and join you duty’. After this, the students decided sit on dharna in front of the Superintendent’s office.
As no action was taken against the Principal by the Superintendent and no assurance was given, Subhadra lodged an FIR in the Magalabag police station. I haven’t got a copy of the FIR but according to news report the case has been registered ubder the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The first year and second year nursing students also joined the strike with the fourth year students from the beginning. The third year students had agreed to join, but decided against it. The students I met in Cuttack told me that the Principal threatened the students to fail them in the exam so they decided not to join.
Meanwhile the government closed the school sine die and students were asked to vacate the hostel. After this the students sat on a dharna in Bhubaneswar and met the Health Secretary and the Health Minister. The Secretary and the Minister assured the students that they would inquire into the matter. The students have said that they are temporarily withdrawing their dharna. In the Press conference yesterday they declared that if no action is being taken against the principal they would again sit on dharna from the 24th.