Lucknow cherishes many memories of Jawaharlal Nehru that surface every November. Nehru was born on November 14 and the birthday of the country's first Prime Minister (PM) is celebrated as Children's Day.

Nehru had loved kids. He wrote that children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow. Only through right education can a better order of society be built up.

I still remember my own little moment with Chacha Nehru. During the months of May and June when the heat and dust around the Gangetic plains becomes impossible to bear, the entire administration of Uttar Pradesh (UP) had once upon a time moved to Nainital, the summer capital of the province. Being the Bureau Chief of The Indian Express in the 1960s, my father too went to Nainital along with an army of fellow journalists to keep an eye on the government.

One day my parents took me for a stroll on the Mall Road. The pedestrians were delighted that day to see the Prime Minister pass by in a roofless motorcar. They jumped with joy on seeing Nehru standing in the car, smiling and waving at them.

The PM got the motorcade to slow down. It came to a near halt just where I stood in between my parents. People rushed to shake hands with the PM who showered the crowd with flowers that he had plucked from the many garlands around his neck. A red rose from the PM came my way which remained a most precious possession for many years.

Nehru was born and brought up in the city of Prayagraj but he was a regular visitor to Lucknow. He was 26 years old when he accompanied his father Motilal Nehru to attend a Congress Party meet here. He visited KN Kaul, his wife's brother who lived on Lucknow's Gokhle Marg where he ate many mangoes. He planted the seed of one mango in the courtyard, the tree stands to this day and is laden with fruits during the mango season.

It was in Lucknow that Nehru first met the 47-year-old M. K. Gandhi in 1916 at the Charbagh Railway Station. When Nehru was arrested for the first time for distributing pamphlets against the visit of the Prince of Wales, he was put in Lucknow jail for 87 days.

In 1917 Nehru attended a meeting at the residence of the Raja of Mahmudabad to discuss the Indian defence force. In 1922 Sardar Patel had accompanied Nehru to Lucknow, adding great excitement to the khadi and swadesi movements. Both Nehru and Patel had addressed large audiences at the Rifa-i-Aam-Club, and Patel's talk in English was translated into Urdu by lawyer Harkaran Nath Mishra.

In 1928 Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose travelled to Lucknow to meet like-minded people who were also unhappy with the offer of the British for dominion status for India. Nehru was elected president and Bose secretary of a league formed by the two freedom fighters who demanded total independence. A committee report was tabled by Nehru at the historic Kaiserbagh Baradari on nothing less than full freedom from colonial rule.

Nehru had served as UP Congress chief, and inspired by socialism in Russia he had drafted a socialist proposal in Lucknow to benefit the poor, and farmers. He had proposed economic equality that later blossomed into the five year plans.

Children's Day, Children's Rights

One purpose of celebrating Children's Day is to remind society of the rights of children in the Constitution of India. It is the right of every child to have free education, protection from all life threatening employment, from exploitation, abuse, to equal opportunities to develop in a healthy manner, to freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth.

But What's Happening Instead? According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, UP reported more than 40 cases of rape and murder of children in 2021, accounting for 30 percent of all cases registered for the offence across the country.

Most rapists are often not punished here and many are even cheered for the rapes and murders they commit. Male students are no exception. Just the other day a Class 12 student Ronit Sarkar, 18 went missing and was found dead in Kanpur.

His body was discovered in a remote area near a railway track. While it is still not known who is responsible for the death of Ronit, there is a collective sigh of relief that a Deputy Superintendent of (DSP) has been punished for inaction against two rapists.

The cop has been demoted to the position of a Sub Inspector after it was alleged that he had accepted a bribe of Rs 5 lakhs in a gangrape case in Rampur district. There is a video that has gone viral on social media where the cop is caught accepting a bagful of money. In 2021, a woman had alleged that two men had gang-raped her but the cop did not take action after accepting the bribe.

Unhappy Students

Some students are an unhappy lot today. Lucknow University students are agitated over the fee hike. When unemployment is at its worst and parents are barely able to afford to feed the family, where are they supposed to find extra cash to pay laboratory fees being asked by the University?

There is anger at the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in Saharanpur too. The institution is protesting for being declared illegal by the Minority Welfare department. In September the government had conducted a state-wide survey when over 6,000 private madrasas were declared illegal, including the Darul Uloom.

Darul Uloom is an Islamic University that gives affiliation to over 4,000 madrasas all over the country. It is registered under the Societies Act, and it propagates religious philosophy and ideology to half the Muslims of the world called Deobandis. It is not registered with the UP Madrasa Education Board.

Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali said that there are three ways a madrasa can be run. It is either registered under the Societies Act, the Trust Act or follows the mandate given to minorities under Article 30 of the Constitution of India. Darul Uloom Deoband imparts free education, boarding and lodging to the poor. All expenses are met from their own resources. It is not dependent on the government for funds.