Dumka’s Gritty daughter

In her life’s tough journey, there have not been shortcuts. When she was unable to pay her college tuition fee, she met the then deputy commissioner who introduced her to the district welfare officer.
More than two dozen children get free education in Divya’s makeshift school .
More than two dozen children get free education in Divya’s makeshift school .

JHARKHAND: The 21-year-old daughter of a former Maoist has persisted with her studies and got her mom to quit the wrong path. Pursuing her graduation, she teaches kids to pay for her college fees. She aspires to become a full-fledged teacher one day, writes Mukesh Ranjan

At 21 years of age, she has seen the worst of ideological extremes; being the daughter of a former woman Maoist Preshila Devi alias Pici Di. Divya Pahadia had to live miles away from her mother, a forest dweller and an outlaw. Poverty and want were Divya’s companions, yet she chose to read and write and today she is an economics undergraduate. Books and knowledge have guided her to teach poor children living in slums in Jharkhand’s Dumka, about 335 km from district headquarters in Ranchi. Divya belongs to Mahuagadhi village under the Kathikund sub-division.

The first thing that Divya did after crossing the ‘Maoist hurdle’ was to convince her mother against the ideology and the concept of ‘armed struggle’. Pici Di surrendered before the police, and Divya took to teaching.

More than two dozen children get free education in Divya’s makeshift school which is run by the District Welfare Officer (DWO) in his garage.

In her life’s tough journey, there have not been shortcuts. When she was unable to pay her college tuition fee, she met the then deputy commissioner who introduced her to the district welfare officer.

“I was willing to do some work and the DWO offered me to teach the slum children, which I accepted. In exchange for teaching two dozen children for free, the DWO supports me in paying my tuition fee and meeting other day-to-day requirements,” said Divya. She loves teaching and wants to pursue it as a profession.

She does not have a place of her own to live in; she is currently an inmate at Adim Janjatiya Kalyan Chatrawas in Dumka and cycles her way to the DWO’s garage to teach children.

“When I was a child, I lived with my maternal uncles and went to a government school at Kundapahari in the Gopikandar area. Somehow I completed my schooling,” said Divya.

After completing her schooling, she came to know that her mother was a Maoist who left her to join the Maoist ranks when Divya was hardly 5 years old. Her father, Ravindra Dehri, had also left and settled with another woman.

She observed that people avoided her and looked at her with suspicion. She decided to change all that.
“I started communicating with my mother. After months of persuasion, I succeeded in arranging her surrender before the police in 2019,” said Divya. Things changed and she took admission at AN College to pursue her graduation.

“I had no money to pay my tuition fee as all the government compensation that my mother received in lieu of her surrender got exhausted in her treatment and the legal battle. It was then that I decided to contact the then-deputy commissioner,” said Divya. What followed was a turning point because had the officer not guided her, she would have quit her studies and married, she said.

According to the District Welfare Officer Sanjay Kacchap, Divya has been handling the children very well. “We appreciate her efforts,” says Kacchap. She started off with only 5 children in her class,” 
he said.

Suraj Midha, a student of class 8, attends Divya’s classes regularly. “Since our parents are illiterate and do menial jobs, there was no one to clear our doubts in studies. Divya didi has solved our problems,” said Suraj Midha.

Parents too are happy. “My daughter did not go to school, but Divya’s arrival has piqued her curiosity. She has started going to school,” says Samri Devi, whose daughter Puja studies in class 8.

“We never went to school. We are happy that our children are on the way to get education,” said Samri.
Churia Devi, who works as a domestic help, says her daughter Kajal studying in class 3 at a nearby government school has been doing well in her studies ever since she started attending Divya’s classes.
“Her teachers would often complain that she was inattentive in her class but after she joined Divya’s classes, they stopped complaining and started praising her,” said Samri.

Divya’s mother is currently lodged in Hazaribagh Open Jail while her only brother Suman Dehri is also lodged in a remand home after he was arrested in Maoist-related activities.

CONVINCING MOM
The first thing that Divya did after crossing the ‘Maoist hurdle’ was to convince her mother against  the ideology and the concept of ‘armed struggle’

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