Cows more important than education? School turns into gaushala in Hyderabad

The building where the bovines are housed, fed and milked was, until 4 months ago, the place where kids from Arundhati Colony would come to study, eat, and play.
Cows more important than education? School turns into gaushala in Hyderabad
Cows more important than education? School turns into gaushala in Hyderabad

As we near the once-Primary School in Arundhati Colony of Uppuguda in Hyderabad, the strong smell of cow urine and cow dung wafts through the air. There is a Hanuman temple in sight, and next to it, a cow shed – a gaushala.

The building where the ruminating bovines are housed, fed and milked was, until four months ago, the place where children from the Arundhati Colony would come to study, eat nutritious food, and play. But now, the Veeranjaneya Swamy Mandhir Committee has allegedly encroached on the land, kicked the children out, and built a shelter for the cows.

The Government Primary School of Lalith Bagh, which has an abysmally low enrolment of just 15 students, has been running in the building since 1999. While the numbers were low, the importance of the school for the poor children in the neighbourhood was not: This is where the children from Arundhati Colony came to get a mid-day meal.

In January this year, members of the Veeranjaneya Swamy Mandhir Committee approached the headmistress of the school, and reportedly asked her to shift out of the building temporarily. They claimed, according to reports, that the temple needed a facelift.

Concerned about the safety of the students, the school headmistress, Padma Latha, agreed and vacated the school on January 21. The students were shifted to Fathe Shah Nagar, which is 2 km away from Arundathi Colony.

The headmistress gave the temple committee a deadline: She asked them to finish the renovation in four months, so that the school could shift back. However, four months later, Padma Latha was shocked to find a gaushala being erected in the school premises.

When the headmistress confronted the temple committee, the members claimed that the school land belonged to them, and allegedly threatened her. She alleged to media persons that she was showered with verbal abuses as well.

In protest, on April 11, the headmistress along with the students, sat on the roads to highlight their plight.

But while the headmistress initially spoke to the media about what had happened, she is now unwilling to speak to media anymore, reportedly after repeated harassment.

She told TNM over phone, “I do not wish to comment on the issue.”

The committee members have now pitched a tent near the temple and erected a summer water camp near the temple. At least six members stay near the camp.

“They have installed this camp to intimidate anyone who comes near the school and asks anything about it,” said a local resident.

When this reporter went near the water camp, asking the committee members about the dispute, one of them said, “We don’t want to talk to media. Everyone in this locality knows that it is temple land… ”

After repeated questioning he lost his cool, and said, “Write whatever you want. Don’t ask us anything. You media people don’t favour us anyway.”

Sometime later, after much convincing, Mahesh, one of the temple committee members agreed to speak. “The land belongs to the temple,” he said. “It was never a school. When the school authorities approached us, we offered accommodation in our community hall. This is not government land. The headmistress is creating all the trouble,” he claimed.

However, government officials have refuted the claims made by the temple committee. Mandal Education Officer Zainab Sultana said that the land rightly belongs to the government.

“The school has been functioning there since 1999. We have all the documents. We will reclaim the school with police protection in two days,” she said.

Though the committee members objected to the government school board erected in the disputed land, the Mandal Education Officer along with her team on Thursday put the school board near the temple.

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