From Thanksgiving till now… a lot has happened

Whenever a flurry of events happen in our life, we seldom get the time to sit back and consider…what really happened?

When we all celebrated Thanksgiving on 27-28 March, little did we know that 17 days later we would see what we saw today. Most of us are yet to come to terms with what has really happened today… it may really never set in. So we sat back, took a deep breadth and put together a chronology of events to answer this question. Since this is our longest post, we request you to only read it when you have at least 20 minutes at hand.

What you will find is how a complete web of deceit has been created by the management to push the children, diyas and us out of our revered place.

Read on…

28th March – Under sustained pressure from some anxious parents, the school calls for a town-hall meeting on 29th March

29th March – 2 meetings happen…

Minutes of 1st meeting as summarised by a parent below:

1. Management concerns: 

– Management believes Mirambika faces as existential threat due to the fact that the land — the 10 acres the school building and grounds currently occupy — was originally granted by the government for the creation of a teachers college. 

– Management believes that the government is now moving to strictly enforce this agreement and could act to repossess the land. 

– Management recently received an RTI inquiring about its use of land and has been receiving formal letters from the department of education on this issue. 

2. Management’s proposed solution:

– The management’s favoured solution — creating a formal degree-granting teachers college that would occupy the rear of the building, while the school continues to operate as is — is a non-starter for two reasons: 

1. Current rules do not permit a college and a school to share the same premises.

2. The government is unlikely to grant permissions for creation of new teachers colleges this year. 

– Given the pressing nature of the threat, the management has instead applied for permission to create a women-only engineering college that would occupy the rear of the Mirambika building. This would be stopgap solution until the government grants permission for creation of a women-only teachers college, which Pranjal says he expects next year. The engineering school would be wound down after four years. 

– Mirambika will have to relocated until such time as the government changes the law preventing colleges and schools from occupying the same premises. If and when that does happen the school can return. 

– Pranjal says he advocated the construction of an all-new structure to house Mirambika given the likely difficulty of changing the law regarding school/college colocation. His proposal was rejected by the other members of the management committee who preferred moving Mirambika to what they hope would only be temporary quarters. 

3. Parents’ responses: 

–  Some parents were concerned that management was motivated by a concern for profit. The worry was comprehensively dispelled. 

–  Parents wanted to know whether the proposed changes were solely a response to adverse legal/regulatory conditions or whether they reflected a desire to create something new. The management’s replies to these questions were ambiguous. 

– Parents expressed concerns that the management’s proposed solution could create a host of new problems and move it into uncharted and potentially treacherous territory.

– Parents requested that they be allowed to work together with management to assess the problem and find a workable solution. 

– Management agreed to work with parents to find a way to save Mirambika. Matthijs noted that parents had saved Mirambika in the past and challenged parents to find an alternate solution that convinced him and Mirambika board members. 

4. Next steps: 

– Parents are forming a legal committee to aid management in formulating a response to the threat. 

– Management has agreed to select an outside legal expert from a list nominated by parents. 

– Management confirms that it will not relocate Mirambika unless absolutely necessary. 

Minutes of the second meeting by another parent:

Following Deepak’s succinct and apt summary of the first meeting, I follow with my notes from the second that took place soon after in the Blue group. I want to thank Matthijs bhaiya and Pranjal bhaiya for encouraging such a hearty discussion. I have summarised as much as I can recall of the conversation and request other parents who were present to add to this, as they find appropriate.

 

1.       The meeting started with the parents seeking more clarity from the management team members present. As understood by many parents, the first meeting concluded with a certain indication that the school will be shifting to the Matri store area as a school is not permitted in the current location and that an immediate resolution to the crisis was to start with a teaching institute.

2.       It was conveyed to the school management that the physical location of the school and its architecture was integral to the method and spirit of imparting education at Mirambika.

3.       Opening of a college, the stream notwithstanding, would interfere severely with the ‘free and open interaction’ of the children on which the school premises itself.

4.       Matthijs bhaiya conveyed that while the school will try to minimise the impact of any change, compromises were inevitable.

5.       Explore “occupants have the first right on land” and the moral and ethical ground of displacing a school that has been in existence for more than 30 years. Highlight the silent yet remarkable reformation brought about by Mirambika in the entire schooling system – its first mover and cult status.

6.       It was pointed out that documents related to land use/lease etc usually categorises use for ‘educational institution’ but does not specify school or college.

7.       To this Pranjal Bhaiya emphasised that papers related to Mirambika’s land does mention ‘college’ as the end use of the designated premises.

8.       The possibilities of political interference and profiteering intentions of outsiders were also discussed – alongwith roping in of political resources from our end, if required.

9.       Given the sensitivity of the matter, all felt it was important to be discreet. Informal discussions for advice even with close family or friends were discouraged.

10.   Immediate next steps:

a.       Roadmap to be set, starting with a legal support team which will be constituted from amongst the parents.

b.      Pranjal bhaiya to show the land documents to the legal support team.

c.       The management committee agreed to re-evaluate their legal position based on third party opinion given by senior lawyers to be engaged by the parents legal support team.

d.      Names of senior counsel to be proposed to Pranjal Bhaiya and parent reps for seeking legal intervention/advice.

11.   Primary take away: Clarion call for the situation to be re-evaluated along with close cooperation and participation of the parents.

2nd and 3rd April : This was followed by 2 more group meetings on 2nd and 3rd April… minutes as summarised below by a parent:

After the two meetings (documented on this mail group by Deepak Gopinath — outgoing Peace Group and Saikat Ghosh — outgoing Red Group, respectively) between the school management and parents last Sunday, various sets of parents across groups have been engaging in conversations amongst themselves and with the management.

More information has now come to light as a result of these independent discussions. I was part of two such meetings, and I’d like to share my understanding with the larger group. I encourage other parents to come forward and help the group improve this understanding.

===

THE FIRST MEETING on Thursday, April 2nd, was an impromptu informal chat between a few outgoing blue group parents, Pranjal Bhaiyya, and a few senior Didis. A brief summary of this chat:

1. Management’s position:

  1. Mirambika school land is currently facing some legal compliance issues, and the school management is working to resolve the situation. According to the lease deed, (which Pranjal Bhaiyya offered up for reading), the land was originally allotted for a college.
  2. Pranjal Bhaiyya assured the parents that as of now the school is not going to shift, and that they are seeking ways to keep Mirambika in its current space. He also said that if at all the school would need to be moved, it would be with ample notice.
  3. Certain renovations are being undertaken by school above Matri store. Pranjal Bhaiyya said this space would be be utilised for shifting the health centre from the Ashram to that location.
  4. As a part of the plan to resolve these compliance related problems, the management has applied for AICTE approval for running a Women’s Computer Engineering College in the campus where Mirambika currently stands.
  5. Periodic inspections to approve the engineering college campus are currently being conducted. One such inspection was on 20th March (also the day of the school picnic), and more may follow. The school may consider innovative ways of resolving this conflict.
  6. The approval from AICTE is expected within one month. According to Pranjal bhaiyya, the management hopes to receive its first batch this year itself (subject to approvals), so that they can achieve compliance without any further delay.
  7. After approvals, the management will run the engineering college in the rear portion of the current campus (where a male teachers’ hostel currently exists), while the school will continue to run as before in the front portion of the building.

2. Parent’s responses:

  1. It appears that as per AICTE norms, a school and college are not allowed to run in the same campus.
  2. If the first batch of engineering college begins this year, then this could be as early as July/August (given that’s the time new sessions normally begin in colleges). If so, then how will 120 undergraduate students coexist with primary school children on the same campus.

===

THE SECOND MEETING on Friday, April 3rd was organised by Darshan Bhat (former parent-rep) and Vikrant Abrol (current parent-rep). This meeting was attended by a few parents from (outgoing) Yellow, Blue and Progress Groups.

Darshan/Vikrant organised this meeting as a follow-up to the call for volunteers to help the school, after the Sunday meeting at the school library. 17 people from various groups had handed in their names to volunteer and Vikrant has talked to all these people individually.

A brief summary of this meeting:

1. Objectives of the meeting

To reframe the debate in light of Matthijs Bhaiyya’s thinking last Sunday (expressed by him in a gathering after the library meeting got over):

Given that the intent of the management is to preserve the school in its current form, are there possible solutions (legal or otherwise), that could establish compliance without disrupting the school, that the school hasn’t perhaps considered?

2. Discussions & research presented

  1. A parent from (outgoing) Blue group presented research to support the fact that the school has been a legitimate entity for 30 years, with sufficient paperwork in many government departments including DoE, to that effect.
  2. A parent from Orange group presented research pertaining to DDA master plan 2021, which calls for more centres of integral education across the state. This seemed to suggest that what Mirambika has been doing is in fact visionary and futuristic, and in line with the goals of the government going forward.

The discussion ignited excited debate amongst the people present, about the need for an out-of-the-box approach in looking at this problem. From this arose an idea — to formulate a committee seeking representation from all the stakeholders to deliberate on the challenges ahead.

3. Decisions taken

  1. It was proposed and then universally agreed by everyone at the meeting that a committee/task force would be formed. This task force would seek representation from all the parent groups, Diyas, even the alumni and ex-parents. In addition to these representatives, Vikrant suggested (and this suggestion was universally agreed upon) including 4-5 experts from different fields to make the panel more wholesome.
  2. After due deliberations, brainstorming and discussions to be held in the coming days, the task force is now supposed to come up with a legal brief. This legal brief would be given to external legal expert(s) (legal luminaries with unquestionable integrity), in order to seek opinion from them on the challenges perceived by the school management in terms of compliances, to reexamine the defaults in compliances, and suggest alternative solutions that may preserve the school in its current form.

The meeting was then dissolved. This was followed by Vikrant’s mail documenting the meeting (with just a few minor factual errors which I have attempted to rectify here), to all Mirambika group.

6th April – Parents reach the school on a bright Monday morning to find that the school gym has been converted to a Engineering workshop and the Meditation hall on the top floor converted to a Engineering Library. All this without any intimation to parents.

8th April: A lawyer parent writes an open letter to Mr. Pranjal Jauhar which we have posted earlier… you can read it here: https://savemirambika.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/the-legal-perspective/

Later in the day Mr. Jauhar comments to a parent that (and we quote)

the threat is imminent primarily because in the eyes of the law we-as in the mgt- will be seen as second time offenders, cause when they won back the land in the 80’s, it was to implement the letter of the law and to build a college — but instead Mirambika was built. 

Pranjal bhaiya says that DDA is now getting strict on land use and is sending notices. 14 or so hospitals have received notices in Delhi. Because we are second time offenders the fear is that they- as in the govt- will clamp down and shut us down without giving us due notice to even remove our furniture. 

This stance (we are second-time offenders) is withdrawn by Mr. Jauhar in front of many parents 2 days later

Under the pressure of the open letter,  another townhall is called on the evening of 8th April. Following is the summary (as posted by a parent on 9th April):

Many issues were discussed yesterday, and several viewpoints were put forward. We may – at times – appear divided on account of our differing views, but we are equally united by a common purpose. Certainly, I would like to believe that the common purpose is one shared by management and parents alike. 

The question now appears to be how to move ahead. The sense within the parent body appears to be that this is a matter that ought to be resolved internally, and without any external intervention. To explore the various issues further, share documents, and see each others viewpoints, it will be necessary for parents to interface with management. At the same time, it is simply not practical to have meetings of the entire parent body on a daily basis.

After the meeting, Pranjal Bhaiyya was keen to meet some parents separately (and equally keen not to meet other parents). It is necessary to start that dialogue and discussion with the management, but it should not be in an ad hoc manner. 

The process should be transparent and the sub-group interfacing with management should have some legitimacy as representatives of the parent body. For that purpose, I propose that each group nominate one parent representative who will be part of this body. If you recall, Vikrant had already initiated such an exercise, and certain names were proposed. We could either run with those names or suggest alternative names, and evolve that into a structure going forward.

I hope this suggestion meets with some approval, and if so, I would invite suggestions on how to go about finalizing the group of representatives. Needless to say, time is of the essence.

Sulochana Didi has confirmed that the meeting that was originally scheduled for 7.30 am today has now been postponed to 5 pm today. 

9th April – The evening meeting is summarised in our post here – https://savemirambika.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/legal-perspective-2/

11th/12th April – All groups are summoned to the school separately and told that we are moving our by 1st July… completely disregarding the parent-lawyer group’s findings. This is severely criticised by parents:

I come from today’s meeting finally able to comprehend and take a stand. Aman, Mekhala, Prabhat, Ajay, Suman and all others who have worked so hard to make a difference, I thank you. And I feel for you, with you. I want to tell the present management, “Badly done”. You emerge from this with little honour.

In our group meeting this morning, being a new  mirambikan and absorbing information thats coming in every day from formal and informal channels, we as a group hardly confronted the sudden change of stance and this immediate move in july  and rather we chose to focus on the way forward. The space of ashram thrown in with maitri ( hope planned NOT reactive) comforts me as a parent. But Mirambika will have to now work a bit to get the trust back..the option is not to pull your child out..while one may exercise that too. Its how things unfold from now on is atleast what i would watch out for. i am all there to support in creating a new mirambika at maitri. at the same time I admire and salute the efforts of some of our eminent parents reps ( legal and others) who I suppose are now seeking external senior legal counsel advice as was repeatedly sought in our group discussion this morning.

1. Capital is historically a protean, inexorable force. It must change, destroy, transform, transmogrify everything. Mirambika will make way for a college, which may well make way for a management school, and so on. Mirambika was unique and original in its premise: it had to go, since capital must destroy anything that comes up against it. The problem with the school was that it was one of the last bastions of romantic anti-capitalism, a vestige of the grand utopianism of the late 19C ( Sri Auro bindo and the Mother in line with WIlliam Morris, Edward Carpenter , the young Gandhi who wrote the brilliant work in Gujarati, Hind Swaraj ). The idea of the Divine as the final transmutation of Earth Love has been around in Ashram circles for years , and is Sri Aurobindo’s millennial legacy to those who are trying to think beyond capitalism. But today it is clear that a historical transition has taken place. T he Divine as a historically transformative force and Capital as the motor of history have finally been equated. The new formula is: the Divine = Capital. The miraculation of the Divine and the miraculation of Capital are now one. This means that Mirambika must cease to exist, since the Ashram is now the Church.  

2. Such equations are momentous. They bring about, for better or worse, world transformations. For instance, Prahlada’s brilliant Vedanta-inspired sermons in Canto Seven of the Bhagwata Purana established for the first and last time the formula: Vishnu=Brahman. There were puranas before this, even a Vishnu Purana (200AD), but it was the Bhagwata Purana, written in Sanskrit around 800AD by Tamil Alwar poets, that in a sense launched Bhagwata Dharma, perhaps the most extraordinary ecumenical movement in the history of Hinduism. It was the seedbed for the Bhakti millennium that followed. Similarly: the formula A=A (Fichte, 1895), which launched German idealism. The formula roughly means: the self departs from itself but returns to itself via the experience of the absolute. All of contemporary philosophy follows from that equation and its critics.

2. What fell in place yesterday: Divine=Capital. So it is not really a matter of blaming specific individuals. They are merely bearers of this historical force, wherein all land must be melted and equalized, its minerals placed on the commodity market and so on. Mirambika stood on land; it was a brick-and-mortar barrier which just had to be torn down. 

3. Since it was not feasible as an external limit to capital (it had to go the way of all things, since ‘all that is solid melts into air’ in capitalism ; communism and partyline  Marxism too imploded internally ), it is now a matter of understanding how we and Mirambika can inhabit the force that has dislodged it, but this time cannily from inside the belly of the beast. 

4. The most fragile and poignant core of Mirambika were the diyas, didis and children–and the pi ous   Northern European couple that founded it. This core had to be expunged, as has happened in the last few days. That which is most fragile is that which gives itself to be trampled over. I wonder what dark imaginings must now haunt our children in their sleep, knowing as they do that their parents are nursing such deep inner despair.  

5. Mirambika the building was the external limit to capital, but the diyas-children-didis have the merit of presenting an internal limit to capital. It is the point at which the ideality of greed in its implacable force will meet with some kind of resistance. The diyas and didis are nothing if not hyper-intelligent (they come from areas in which global capital has been experienced in its most devastating effect–the so-called red belt): they must be deeply troubled inside by recent events . It is this internal struggle that will generate in them a new kind of force, which can serve as a kind of internal limit to capital.  I go with those who say Tara-didi is the place where the new reconciliation will take place. Since I have not been personally associated with her, I turn to the one person I have come to love and respect over the past two years: Sulochana-didi. It is she who will reconcile once again Earth Love and Divine Love. This is her historical moment, her opportunity.

6. The new Mirambika will be virtual, no longer actual–there may still be a little edifice that houses it, but this material location will no longer be its most vulnerable point. The new locus will be something very strong that is inside–I look forward to this new soul-work with the didis which will restore our children to their own rightful place at the core of the school. The long shadow of the management and its machinations will long since have receded: the owl of Minerva (the new thinking) will then rise and fly toward the sky even as dusk falls. 

We are being told that come July 1 Mirambika will shift. But is that place which is talked about, a viable alternative. The Mirambika Building was created for a purpose keeping the children in mind for their overall development. Where are the children s going to run around like a free bird? Where’s the space? Where is the Duck Pond, Neem Groove, Sand Pit, Slide? It’s like putting birds in a very big cage with some artificial trees around. I know the Didis will do their level best but there will always be a void. A VOID OF SPACE.

12th April – savemirambika.wordpress.com goes online… receives brickbats publicly and bouquets privately.

A staged meeting is organised with a completely biased “Sr. Legal Counsel”… details are posted here… https://savemirambika.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/sr-legal-counsel-meeting-update/

A labourer falls from the precipice of Mirambika library and injures his head.

13th April – Suddenly a holiday is declared at the school on 14th April…by evening we come to know the real reason. https://savemirambika.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/holiday-tomorrow-14-apr/

14th April – All mayhem breaks loose.

Gates are closed for the first time at the Ashram and no one is allowed to freely enter the Sunlit Path. Security Guards are placed at the the gates and only escorted entry in allowed through gate # 6.

Mail is sent from ERP ID that the school is shifting with immediate effect. Reason is given of security of the children and risk due to construction activities… so instead of stopping the construction activities, an entire school is shifted.

The school is wiped clean as if it never existed… don’t know what “security risk” did those beautiful paintings pose to the children. https://savemirambika.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/a-watershed-day-in-the-history-of-mirambika/

We get to know from reliable sources, that this is done for the AICTE re-examination of the premises.

Now that you have read the whole account, we would really like to know what you think the management is doing. Please  Comment.

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