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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chief Justice Thakur finds his Jammu high school library without books, lab without test tubes; sheds his tears

‘I am indebted to Mohammad Sharief Sahab who taught me Urdu — the language I love and speak with pride’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, Dec 3: When on April 25, 2016, India’s 43rd Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur shed his tears at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he had very compelling reasons: 44 per cent judges missing in high courts, 25 per cent in subordinate courts and 19 per cent in the Supreme Court; judges in the busiest courts spending an average of 2.5 minutes to hear a case and about five minutes to decide one; Law Commission of India having cried itself hoarse since 1987, along with 15 successive CJIs in 29 years, about the need to increase the number of courts and judges drastically for justice to have any real meaning but the system having failed to provide necessary replenishment and the shortfall piling up with thousands of lawsuits every day.

But Saturday’s occasion at Central Basic Higher Secondary School in the dense Purani Mandi interior of Jammu had an altogether different reason. Thakur turned nostalgic and emotional at mentioning reminiscences of his school days how Master Govind Ram created him into a terrific orator; how other teachers taught him drawing and mathematics; and, how Master Mohammad Sharief tutored him Urdu “the language I love and speak with pride and comfort after English”. Several of his teachers, now in 80s and 90s, were in attendance.

In flawless Urdu, Thakur narrated how Govind Ram would give him prize of one Rupee for the best performances in debates and at home father Devi Das would multiply the same by five, in 1960s.

“In South India, people believed that judges could only write eloquent judgments but could deliver a speech. They used to ask me which Convent had brought me up. They looked incredulously at me when I would reveal to them that I was the product of a nondescript, free-education government school in Jammu”, Thakur said with all the punctuations of pride, pathos and nostalgia. For long, his handkerchief failed to mop his eyes and his voice remained choked almost all through the speech.

Notwithstanding his father’s attainments of success — a leading lawyer and subsequently a judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Minister in Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister in Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s government and Governor of Assam — Tirath Singh failed to realise his dream of becoming a student of the most attractive Ranbir Higher Secondary School (Parade Ground).

At Central Basic, like all other students, he would clean the dust from underneath the jute mating and then take a seat. Fifty years later, he said, nothing had changed for good at the school situated at a stone’s throw from the house of his host and Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi.

Even while accepting Mrs. Sethi’s request to adopt the forlorn school that created India’s 4rd Chief Justice, Thakur was terribly pained to notice that little had changed there. “I am afraid this premises of knowledge and learning would soon be converted into a shopping complex or a car parking. That would be the saddest day of my life”, he said.

“In the last 25-30 years, we have seen challenges confronting the education. The elements, who want people to remain blind, burn down schools in Kashmir. Fortunately, we are better off here. But what has changed? My esteemed teachers here will bear me out that its condition was far better than what it is today. The desks were newer and stronger; the classrooms were more comfortable; the library was packed with books and the laboratory with equipment. Today, I see a library but no books, a laboratory but no flames and test tubes”, Justice Thakur said while pledging to attract the Corporate Social Responsibility of some friends’ businesses for the school’s development after his retirement on January 4, 2017.

“It’s very difficult for a man like me to seek help for my old school’s development. But as an alumnus, I will least hesitate as I feel whatever I am today, I am because of this institute of learning”, he asserted.

[Published in STATE TIMES of December 4, 2016]

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