The Gadchiroli district in eastern Maharashtra has an untamed beauty. Bounded by the Godavari, Pranhita and Indravati rivers, it is mostly peopled by adivasis. The district is both famed for the Hemalkasa project run by Dr Prakash Amte, and notorious for Maoist insurgency. Attacks on the armed forces, and the blowing up of roads and bridges are not uncommon here.
That is also why this district has a larger presence of security forces is than other parts of the state. The local police force is augmented by state as well as national reserve police forces. These security forces work tirelessly to ensure the safety of the local populace, sometimes laying down their lives in the line of duty.
But the members of these security forces do not necessarily hail from the district, or even the state. Many come from far-off places, leaving behind their families and loved ones – whom they can neither bring with them nor visit often. Missing important festivals and family occasions is usual for these men. That is why, this year, the girl students from the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Etapalli decided to celebrate the Rakshabandhan festival by tying rakhi, as sisters do, on the wrists of these soldiers.
The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya is a central government scheme aimed at girls from the tribal, nomadic and other communities that are on the fringes of mainstream society. Most schools under this scheme are residential, and are established in areas where women’s access to education reveals a steep gender disparity, or where the female-to-male ratio is alarmingly skewed, besides locations where the more marginalised communities live. Girls from all over the district study there.
The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Etapalli has girls from nearby hamlets and villages studying here. Just as the soldiers are away from home, so are these girls, which is why the Principal and teachers of this school came up with the novel rakshabandhan idea. The students made their own rakhis as well as all the other preparations to felicitate the soldiers. The teachers bought sweets for the students and the soldiers.
The actual event was held in the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) camp in Etapalli. The students decorated the ground with flowers. All 40 students had made rakhis, which they tied on the wrists of as many CRPF personnel. It was an emotional moment for some of the policemen, as well as for the girls. Each could empathise with the other, as persons living away from home and family.
But this small gesture created new bonds, with the students now looking upon the policemen as family, representing security, and the policemen seeing in the young students the families they had left behind.
Blog & photos: Nakul Lanjewar (samatadoot) Primary Teacher, ZP Primary School, Kosabi, Gadchiroli
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team.