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RAF forces students out of classrooms in Darjeeling
The classrooms of Sunsari Primary School in Bijanbari, Darjeeling presently does not comprise of students, nor any desk, benches etc, but it has been substituted with guns, ammunitions and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel. With RAF presently occupying the classrooms, these students are forced to study in the school playground, which is dusty and hot as well. These children are even denied the basic right to education.

Headmaster of the school, Bhim Bahadur Hingmang said, ''The school was closed down for the winter vacations on 24th December 2013. It was on January 14th 2014 that these RAF personnel came to the school and we had to open the school for them as it is a government property.''

If the school authorities were courageous enough, they could have said 'no,' as the RAF did not have any official letter with them from higher offices to grant them the space to reside. Initially, Bhim thought that it was only a temporary arrangement and expected them to vacate the school  before the new academic session came started, hence the school gates were opened for them.

As days passed, there were no signs of RAF personnel moving out. As a result of which, the school authorities decided to take the issue further and complained about it to the local administration, SI, BDO etc, hoping they would help in removing the RAF from the classrooms. But, these complaints landed on deaf ears as these RAF personnel still have their uniform hanging on the school window, justifying their presence.

The students of the school are sons and daughters of farmers, labourers, primarily from the poorer section of the society. Having attended classes in the sun to study the entire day, they have gradually started to fall ill as well, resulting in absentees. Apart from this, there is chaos when these students are imparted education. All the classes take place under the same roof with separate blackboards.

''The situation is such that even if the teachers scold one student, students from other classes get disturbed. It is very difficult to teach anything,'' said the headmaster.

Though the headmaster does not even know the purpose of the RAF staying in the school premises, but one senior journalist, Bimal Rai from a local newspaper in Darjeeling said that the state government considers Bijanbari to be a very sensitive area, hence their presence. Rai feels that the school authorities are afraid of the political culture in Darjeeling and are hence not doing anything. He said ''They are waiting for a phantom to rescue them.''

But, Bhim said that they are not afraid of of the political culture, ''There is nothing for us to fear. We have even approached politicians like Roshan Giri and informed about the issue.''

Now, people in the hills are gradually waking up to the fact that these students are deprived of a simple basic education right. Bishal Lama, a resident of Darjeeling was moved when he came to know about the pathetic condition of the students, hence, started a petition in change.org, which has been signed by 254 people as of now.

Lama has decided to take this matter to the HRD ministry if possible and wants to bring the matter into the attention of the ministry, primarily the plight of the students in the school. He said, ''When I heard this story I couldn't hold myself. Someone had to speak up for not only the children but also their poor parents who earn meagerly and send their children to school staying hungry themselves. I feel that violation of children's rights and  suppression of the poor should not be tolerated in a democratic society like ours.''

With a number of government officials being informed about the situation and such petition request, one can only hope and pray that justice is delivered to the students, wherein they can be seated comfortably inside the classroom and receive their daily dose of education.

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