Vijay Ever secretly wish that a good friend fails to achieve their dream? That’s how I felt when I learned Vijay Indrekar Chhara wanted to become a policeman. Vijay is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, a natural leader who commands respect without imposing it. He spends most of his time working with the children of Chharanagar, providing after-school education to hundreds of school kids. He also runs the computer center, oversees a lot of the work done by the children’s branch of Budhan Theatre, and also supervises production of the children’s newspaper produced within the community.

Vijay was also one of the most important people in our our film. Most of his work was off-camera, but whenever Vijay wasn’t around it became ten times more difficult to get anything accomplished!

I was surprised to learn that Vijay wanted to be a policeman. Even more so considering how much the community suffers as a result of police corruption and brutality. I understood that more than just being a steady, well paid job, Vijay felt that he could make a difference working from within the inside to change police attitudes towards the Chhara. Still, I couldn’t help but think that the institution would change him, and it was because of that worry that I secretly wished it wouldn’t happen.

But then it really didn’t happen and I was shocked. Vijay had worked hard to pass the exams, and received one of the top rankings in the state. I can’t imagine they could find a more qualified candidate. Nobody knows why Vijay was rejected, but the most likely conclusion is that they knew of his work with Budhan Theatre and his dream of making a change. Or perhaps they are just discriminating against him because he is Chhara? In either case, I’m glad to hear that the community isn’t taking this blow lying down. Together with three other rejected Chhara candidates, Vijay filed a petition under the Indian government’s Right to Information Act, seeking information as to the reasons for their rejection.

Although I’d rather see Vijay become a successful IT worker than a policeman, I understand that it is important for him to win this battle, and I wish him the best of luck. The Chhara deserve to have policemen like Vijay.

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Times of India, Ahmedabad

Denotified tribes use RTI to fight stigma
Paul John | TNN

Ahmedabad: Vijay Indrekar Chhara, 28, had appeared thrice for the constabulary exams of the Gujarat police and in the last attempt, managed to rank third on the state merit list. But despite his stellar performance, he was rejected. Today Vijay, along with three others, is seeking reasons for their rejection from the state government under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The Chharas of Ahmedabad, who were branded as a criminal tribe by the British, are now hinging on the RTI to fight the social prejudice against them. The community not only feels that it’s dwellings on the city’s outskirts are deprived of basic civic amenities, but also neglected by the government when it comes to availing social benefits.

A major problem that the community plans to fight against is the police atrocity, through the RTI.

We are planning street plays to educate youngsters at Chharanagar about the Act. We will start by picking up civic issues, then sending our RTI applications to the municipal corporation and later demonstrating to our people as to how we can hold the government responsible for their acts. We have a string of cases, where people have been refused government jobs or have been constantly harassed by the police just because of the social stigma attached to the community,” says a Chhara activist Dakshin Chhara.

Community members had gathered on Sunday to file RTI applications seeking explanation for the unfinished civic works in their areafrom their area municipal councillor.

Shakuntala Chhara, in her sixties, is fighting for her grandchild, who was not recruited by the state transport department after her son died. I have been fighting for the last 15 years, after the death of my son, who was a state transport employee. The government has still has not provided my grandson a job, as a part of the compensation. Now I can seek explanations, under the RTI, from the government about why my grandson was not reinstated.”

The community is also planning to move an RTI application to know whether members settled in Maninagar Zaveripul were entitled to an alternative settlement as the municipal corporation had razed their dwelling a couple of times. The AMC was to provide settlements, that were established before 1976, with alternative sites. It is on the same grounds that we would be approaching them.”