Uprooted by Maoists, A Generation of Tribals Torn From Their Origins

Bijapur:  For half his life, 14-year-old Nagesh Kumar Chapa has been studying at a residential school in Bijpur district's Dugaiguda village of Chhattisgarh, away from his home, parents and losing connect with his tribal roots with each passing day.

He is among 500 children from tribal communities who stay and study at the Adarsh Ashram, run by the Central government for children from Maoist-affected areas. There are 30 such Ashrams in the four districts of Chhatisgarh.

At the schools, they get free education, food, clothes and even Rs. 50 as pocket money every month, under the Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission.

"The quality of education in our village is not good and also dada (Maoists) stop us from going to school. After finishing studies here, I would like to study further in Avapalli. I do not want to go back to my village," Nagesh says.

In villages like Kamarguda, where his home is, people live in fear. Maoists have sometimes blown up school buildings to discourage children from studying. The rebels often visit the village demanding food and money and warning villagers against taking benefits from the government.

If they have to send their children away from home to study, the villagers say, then that's a price they are willing to pay. Even if it means, sending them away from home and community where the children leave behind their tribal way of life.

"Two of my sons are working in Bijapur after finishing their studies. I sent them away because of our poverty and the Maoist problem. They will not come back. Even I don't want them to return to the village," Uika Lakhmaiya, a villager, tells NDTV.

The government is proud of the initiatives to give tribal children a shot at schooling and employment. It denies that staying away from their roots sends these children further away from their rich culture and heritage.

"The children stay with others who are also from Bijapur so their cultural connection is intact we ensure that. But once the child is educated and grown up it is totally up to him or her what they want to do with their life and where they want to settle," Bijapur Collector Bijapur Jaswant Singh says.
Source: http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/at-risk-from-maoists-how-chhattisgarhs-tribals-are-giving-up-their-roots-1216946

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