Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
"It's good that the video went viral, because we are facing a lot of problems here in Jhabua. Our hostels are closed, we are forced to live in rented rooms. The buses are charging a lot, so many of us have to walk to college for 2-3 kms. How will we manage?" Nirmala Chauhan a 20-year-old student of Government Girls College in Madhya Pradesh's Jhabua told The Quint.
Chauhan was one of the hundreds of students who protested outside Collector Somesh Mishra's office on 20 December, to raise several issues that the students of the district are facing.
In a video that went viral on social media, Chauhan can be seen telling one of the policemen: "Collector bana do humein, hum sabki maangein poori kar denge (Appoint me as the Collector, I will meet everybody's demands)."
In the 28-second clip, Chauhan who belongs to the Adivasi community, can be seen standing across a police barricade saying: "I am ready to become the Collector. If he cannot meet the demands, I will. What else is a government for? It's as if we are here to beg. Please do something for people like us. We Adivasis come from so far. Do you know how much it costs us?"
The video was taken when around 400 students, mostly girls from several Jabhua colleges, gheraoed the collector's office to raise issues like expensive commute, lack of hostels, and other educational facilities in the district.
Who is Nirmala Chauhan?
Chauhan, a first-year student pursuing Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Government Girls College, Jhabua, said that her fight is not just for herself, but for thousands of girls and students who are deprived of basic rights and education.
Chauhan, a resident of Khandala Khushal village in MP's Alirajpur district has six other siblings out of which only two have been able to continue their education. The rest had to give in to the financial constraints of the family.
Speaking to The Quint, Chauhan said that not all students are as privileged as she is.
"There is no real education going on in the colleges, there are no books to read from, and no playgrounds in the college. Many children are not able to study because we don't have enough to afford education outside Jhabua," she said.
"What is a government for? Who are they here to help? The people, right? I can walk 2-3 kms, even more for the sake of my education. Not all girls can. Many like me can't afford to live in a rented room in the city. It is their responsibility to ensure that we get our education, that we get good living conditions and a good future, not only for the girls in Jhabua but for all the students," Chauhan added.
As the students began to gather outside the Collector's office, the police erected barricades following which the protesters set camp outside the office for at least 45 minutes and continued sloganeering.
As the matter was on a brink of getting out of control, with a few altercations between the police and the protesters, tehsildar Ashish Rathore reached the spot to take stock of the situation. He asked four representatives to meet the Collector and put forth their demands.