ALONG WITH the destruction of schools, the riots also affected those students who were going to appear for their 10th and 12th Board exams. We met many of those, and their only request was that the government takes cognisance of their situation, delay the exams and provide them with the much-needed course books destroyed in the
Two of those who were most vocal about their plight were Mohd Afsarul, who should be appearing for his 10th board exams and Abdul Salaam, due to take his 12th boards exams.
Addressing just how important these exams were to Afsarul, a student of Government Boys Senior Secondary School, Tukhmirpur, he told us about February 23rd , the evening the riots began, when he too became a victim.
Salaam, a student of Government Boys Senior Secondary School in Khajuri Khas, cuts in and explains what happened that day. “Afsarul and I were studying when we heard the call for evening prayers. So, we went to the Masjid, but soon after it the violence had begun”, Salaam says. “My father came soon after the namaz and asked us to leave as things were not okay.” In the chaos that ensued, however, Salaam says they ended up on a different street when Afsarul was surrounded by four men.
“I watched from behind, as he had gone a little ahead. As soon as the men came around him one of them dealt a heavy blow to Afsarul’s head with a stick and he fainted.” The mob dispersed, Salaam says, so he ran and picked his friend up in his arms and took him home.
“I couldn’t sleep that entire night. He was in so much pain”, Salaam tells us about his friend. But Afsarul, despite being told by his parents not to venture out, decided he could not miss his exams.
He told us candidly that he had failed his 9th grade once and had studied hard to get into 10th, “I did not want to miss out. I had studied very hard and wanted to appear for my exams”, and so he did.
But on the 24th after the exam was over, the chaos outside had only grown. “My exam centre was in Yamuna Vihar. When I got off at 1:30 pm, there was a lot of stone pelting and they weren’t even leaving children alone”, he says.
“I reached Chand Bagh where they were burning the petrol pump”, Afsarul says, adding he was told by Muslims in the area not to venture towards his home, which was situated in the Hindu dominated Khajuri Khas. “But I wanted to go home so they showed me the way through small lanes. But everywhere I turned, I saw Hindus throwing stones. Police was everywhere but they weren’t helping students” the teenager claims.
He finally reached home by 5:30pm. “I thought I will study well and do well. Our principal had said study hard, do well and you will get good marks. But now how will I when I don’t have any of my notes, nor any books.”
We met them on March 1 in Chandu Nagar, where they had taken refuge along with the parents. Their homes had been destroyed by mobs. The other students whom we met here, who should have appeared for their board exams were Chandni and Salma, two 10th grade students.
In another house in Chandu Nagar, which was acting as a refuge for people who had fled the violence in Khajuri Khas, we met Aena who should have appeared for her 12th board exams, and Liva and Mohd Taufique for their 10th board exams
“The last paper I gave was for physical education on the 24th – the day violence erupted on a large scale. I was stuck in a school in Gokulpuri as that was my exam centre”, Chandni tells us. She was rescued by her brothers, and while her home is gone she does not want her education to be affected as well. “My next exam is supposed to be political science. I will be unable to give it well without all my books. Please do something’, she tells us.
Salma, who had also given her exam on the 24th said she had been hit with stones by a mob of men. “There were a few policemen around but they didn’t do anything. Some Muslim brothers told us how to escape”.
The students echoed as one of them said, “We are pleading with folded hands, to let our voice reach Modi. Please give us some time and a place to prepare. Our books have been burnt, not even a page has been saved. This kind of atmosphere is not conducive for us to study.”
With inputs from Proma Chakraborty