Hamari Community Library: How Two Aspiring Lawyers Are Following Ambedkar's Path to Educate the Marginalized in Mirzapur

Mukeri Bazaar is a vegetable market in Mirzapur primarily occupied by vendors from marginalized and economically backward communities. Many youths aspire to government jobs but lack access to coaching classes or expensive books. They work hard all day and study whenever they find some free time.
A vegetable vendor in Mukeri Bazaar.
A vegetable vendor in Mukeri Bazaar.

Mirzapur, UttarPradesh- In the spirit of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's profound belief that "education is the milk of a lioness; whoever drinks it will roar," two determined aspiring lawyers have embarked on a mission to illuminate the lives of the underprivileged with the light of education.

Rahul Mishra a practicing advocate and Tushar Singh, a law student from Delhi University have taken on the formidable task of raising awareness about the transformative power of education and ensuring that it is accessible to all. Their third friend is Gauri Sharma, who works in a corporate firm in Delhi and is making genuine efforts to advance the venture.

The youths have initiated a rural education program and are committed to providing free books to children, women, backward communities and everyone at the grassroots level. Their Community Library is an initiative to establish and sustain community-run libraries in Mukeri Bazaar, Mirzapur.

Mirzapur, though technically a town, shares many characteristics with a village. Its population largely consists of backward communities where people toil daily to earn their bread. The means to access higher education are scarce, and the barriers are numerous. In such a challenging environment, Mishra and Singh's initiative stands out as a beacon of hope.

Speaking with The Mooknayak, Rahul who hails from Mirzapur, said that he realized the vital importance of education while pursuing his legal studies in Delhi. Upon returning to his hometown, he saw first hand the educational deprivation faced by the economically disadvantaged local population.

Inspired by Ambedkar's teachings, Mishra, along with his friend Tushar who he knows through a social media platform, decided to begin a rural education program.

" We conducted a survey in the neighboring Birsapur village, predominantly inhabited by the SC-ST community. Local youths preparing for exams shared their needs, and we initially arranged books for them. However, we soon realized that our resources were insufficient to provide free books to a large number of people. This led us to the idea of establishing a library where there would be ample books for all age groups—from primary school students to elderly individuals. The library will include newspapers, magazines, and books catering to the diverse needs of each section of the community."

Rahul explained to The Mooknayak that they recently surveyed school-going children in and around villages within a 15km radius to gather insights and better support rural education.

"People often have the mindset of 'what's the use of education when our primary concern is earning our daily bread.' To address this, we have also been providing rations to very poor families to alleviate their immediate concerns and encourage them to prioritize education," he said.

Hamari Community Library surveyed school-going children in and around villages within a 15km radius to gather insights to better serve and support rural education.
Hamari Community Library surveyed school-going children in and around villages within a 15km radius to gather insights to better serve and support rural education.

Turning a Student's Question into a Community Solution

Rahul shared a pivotal moment with The Mooknayak, recounting an interaction with Jitendra Sonkar, a student preparing for the UP Police Sub-Inspector exam.

Sonkar, who sells vegetables all day, asked a question that deeply resonated with Rahul: "Brother, after selling vegetables all day, I have very little time to study and no one to guide me. Can't we have a place where all the books are available, and we can study together?"

This question led Rahul to contemplate the issue deeply. He discussed it with his friend Tushar, and together they conceived the idea of establishing a library. The goal of this library was to house a variety of books in one place so that students could come and study together, helping one another.

For the past few months, they have been diligently working to bring this idea to fruition. Through surveys, book collections, and crowdfunding, they have advanced this project significantly. Rahul's prior experience in actively managing the Bansa Community Library has equipped him with valuable insights into running such an initiative successfully.

A vegetable vendor who gets book issued from the community library.
A vegetable vendor who gets book issued from the community library.

Mukeri Bazaar is a vegetable market in Mirzapur primarily occupied by vendors from marginalized and economically backward communities. Many youths aspire to government jobs but lack access to coaching classes or expensive books. They work hard all day and hardly find time to study.

In such cases, the community library has come to their aid, allowing them to borrow books and return them after studying. The library is open to all from 10 AM to 10 PM. Rahul, who practices law in New Delhi, visits the library once every two months and relies on local community youths to ensure its smooth functioning.

"I have told them it is their endeavor, so they must take responsibility for its running. They share their book requirements, which we try to procure through donor help," he said.

The library aims to serve daily wagers, street vendors, and domestic helpers, providing them with a place to study and access educational resources.
The library aims to serve daily wagers, street vendors, and domestic helpers, providing them with a place to study and access educational resources.

The Community Library Initiative

The library aims to serve daily wagers, street vendors, and domestic helpers, providing them with a place to study and access educational resources.

The initiative focuses on ensuring that those who struggle to make ends meet can still find opportunities to educate themselves and prepare for competitive exams. By creating this space, the youths hope to empower these individuals to transform their lives through education.

Rahul also mentioned that setting up a permanent setup with limited resources was a challenging task. However, a generous building owner offered space in his building, including a large hall that can accommodate 10-15 readers at a time. Additionally, there is space available on the terrace to accommodate readers in case of high demand.

Painting and repair works are presently underway at the library which would start functioning soon.
Painting and repair works are presently underway at the library which would start functioning soon.

Key Services and Programs

  1. Free Book Distribution: The library offers a wide range of books and educational materials free of charge, catering to the needs of students and adults alike.

  2. Educational Workshops: Regular workshops on various subjects, including language, computer education, fundamental rights, and health and hygiene, are conducted to benefit both students and adults.

  3. Career Guidance: The library provides career guidance, offering information and resources for various competitive exams like UPSC CSE, Judiciary, SSC CGL/CHSL, CUET UG/PG, and Bank PO.

  4. Community Services: Beyond education, the initiative also extends to providing essential items like food and clothing to those in need. The team aim to raise awareness about fundamental rights and offer free legal assistance to the community. Their goal is to benefit approximately 9,000 to 10,000 people in the rural areas of Mirzapur.

  5. Digital Learning: Plans are underway to start a digital learning center to promote digital literacy, teaching computer skills and internet usage to help people harness modern technology's benefits.

There are patrons like Patrons Vipin Mishra and Sunil Patnaik who are generous and help the youths in collecting books. Tushar encourages anyone wishing to support the initiative to contribute by donating used books, giving old books a new home and eager readers in rural communities, or by purchasing new books through provided links to help families and children pursue their dreams despite challenging home circumstances.

Anyone can contribute to the noble cause by donating books to the library.

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