RSS Affiliate Does The 'Unthinkable' in Kashmir: Sewa Bharati Runs 1,250 Schools, Teaches Kids 'Bharatiyata – News18

Reported By: Madhuparna Das
Last Updated: March 28, 2024, 08:00 IST
New Delhi, India
The schools have Muslim students, primarily girls, and have been run and maintained by Muslim teachers and Aviyan Pramukhs (project in-charges). Image/News18
Chanting lessons from the Quran, discussing “desh prem” (patriotism), teaching the duties of being a “Hindustani”, and lessons on “Bharatiyata” while learning the true meaning of “Kashmiriyat” – this is how Rashtriya Sewa Bharati, affiliated to the Ekal Vidyalaya Abhiyan project, has made successful inroads among Kashmiri Muslims and managed to establish and run 1,250 schools for children in the Valley, that has an over 95% Muslim population. Sewa Bharati is an educational initiative of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The 1,250 Ekal Vidyalayas (an informal school education system) spread across 10 districts in Kashmir valley also include 180 such schools in Kashmir’s Baramulla district, which has witnessed several terror attacks on civilians and security forces. According to data available with the organisation, the Valley saw an around 53% jump in the number of Ekal Vidyalayas since 2022, from 800 to 1,250 in the past two years.
News18 has accessed exclusive details of the success story of Sewa Bharati, which has achieved a feat that was almost “unthinkable” in Kashmir a few years ago, said security experts and academicians. For security reasons and to respect the sensitivity of the situation in the Valley, News18 is withholding the names and details of the teachers, and the project leads of various districts in Kashmir.
The schools have Muslim students, primarily girls, and have been run and maintained by Muslim teachers and Aviyan Pramukhs (project in-charges). Village committees with five to six members in each supervise the schools. Some of them are local representatives of panchayats as well. The primary objective has been to teach the true value of “Kashmiriyat”, “desh prem”, duties of being a “Hindustani”, and protecting them from joining the stone-pelters, said a senior member of the committee.
“The medium of teaching is Kashmiri and Urdu. We do not want our children to become stone-pelters or join groups of terrorists. We do not want them to indulge in drug addiction,” said Amir Mirza (name changed), a senior associate with the project. ” Over the past five years, in Baramulla district, no student of Ekal Vidyalaya dropped out or joined the stone-pelters for money. They are all proud Hindustani Muslims. We do teach them the Quran here and we never faced any adverse reaction from the organisation in this regard.”
Amir joined the project 12 years ago when he was 24. In the past years, he was threatened several times by armed militants and witnessed multiple instances of violence in his village. “The project was termed a conspiracy as well,” he said. However, he managed to stick to his work and got support from the locals.
The young members who run the whole system are the local Kashmiris. They call the project their “fight to save Kashmiriyat”. Ekal Vidyalayas have been running in the region for over a decade, but they have received a rousing response and support from the locals in the past five to six years.
Even though the senior members of the state committees don’t want to connect the rise in numbers with the abrogation of Article 370 sections, they say that society and locals have been witnessing a change, as they are connecting with the idea of national integration.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Viksit Bharat Viksit Jammu-Kashmir event last month saw a huge public response, reflecting the change in Kashmiri society, said a senior member of the organisation.
The Ekal Vidyalaya Abhiyan has a four-tier structure to run the schools, which include Anchal Abhiyan Pramukh (area head), Prashikshan Pramukh (teaching head), Mulyankan Pramukh (evaluation head) and Jagaran Pramukh (campaign head). All these positions have Kashmiri Muslims who work as volunteers to “fight for Kashmiriyat”, said the senior member.
Around 70% or more teachers are women. The schools follow the syllabus of the general education system in J&K. “Some children come from the villages where there are no formal schools, while others come from very poor families who cannot afford the school education system,” said Hina Ahmed (name changed), a teacher. “We try to provide primary and post-primary education to the kids. Apart from the general subjects, we teach about nationalist ideas and have a special subject called Kashmiriyat. We also teach them about the history of the region.”
The students in the school celebrate Independence Day, Republic Day, and all other major local and national festivals, she added.
According to the last published annual report of 2021-22 by the Ekal Vidyalaya Abhiyan, until 2022, the organisation ran these schools in 480 villages in the Kashmir valley. The number of schools in each village could be more than one as well. In 2021-22, the organisation received Rs 129 crore as domestic donations, while Rs 44 crore came from international donors.
The report stated, “Ekal emphasises through its school curriculum, student enrolment, volunteers’ selection and other operating practices with equal respect for all religious faiths. Due emphasis is placed on local cultural heritage to consolidate a sense of pride and self-respect. The fact that Ekal Vidyalaya are running in 480 villages of Kashmir valley, which is exclusively inhabited by Muslims and similarly in several villages of Tamil Nadu and Kerala which are predominantly Muslim or Christian, is testimony to such true secular practice.”
During a meeting this month of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), known as the highest decision-making body of the RSS, Manmohan Vaidya, a senior Sangh functionary and joint general secretary, said that the “minorities” are coming closer to the organisation.


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