Darjeeling, September 14, 2017: Roy Villa, the house where Sister Nivedita had breathed her last in Darjeeling was vandalised and looted in the wee hours of Thursday. The Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre (RKMNECC,) is located in this villa.
Born as Margaret Elizabeth Noble in Ireland in 1867, Sister Nivedita was a social worker, author, teacher and disciple of Swami Vivekananda. She had met Vivekananda in 1895 in London and traveled to Kolkata, India in 1898. She was accorded the name Nivedita (dedicated to God) and was initiated into the vows of Brahmacharya on March 25, 1898, thus becoming an important part of Ramakrishna Mission.
Nivedita had breathed her last in Darjeeling at the Roy Villa on October 13, 1911 at the age of 43.
The Villa was empty when the incident occurred. "We were in Siliguri when devotees called up and stated that they had visited the Villa in the morning. On entering they found that the main Shrine and room where Sister Nivedita had passed away has been ransacked and vandalised. Photographs were torn and lay strewn on the floor. Glass cases were broken. The donation box has been forced open and looted. We are rushing back to Darjeeling. Only when we reach can we say for sure what else has been looted. We have already informed the police" stated Swami Nityasatyananda, in charge of the RKMNECC, Darjeeling.
Police officials stated that the police had visited and verified after receiving the complaint. The Villa is located on a secluded stretch of Lebong Cart Road, around 4 kilometers away from Darjeeling town.
Roy Villa was owned by Dwarka Nath Roy, the brother-in-law of eminent scientist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose. An ailing Sister Nivedita accompanied by Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala Bose had arrived at Roy Villa in October 1911 to spend the puja vacation. Many eminent personalities had visited her at the Villa at that time.
With the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) n 1988, the Villa changed hands from the State Government to the DGHC.
Interestingly during the Gorkhaland agitation launched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) since October 2007, Roy Villa was used as Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP- voluntary force under the GJM ) camp.
With the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in August 2012, the Villa was again transferred to the Games and Sports Department of the GTA.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's initiative resulted in a barter between the State Government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) whereby the GTA handed over Roy Villa to the State in lieu of which the State handed over the Tenzing Norgay Youth Hostel to the GTA.
On July 10, 2013, on behalf of the Information and Cultural Department, Government of West Bengal, Gautam Deb, North Bengal Development Minister officially handed over the keys to the Roy Villa, to the Ramakrishna Mission to start the Ramkrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre. Items used by Sister Nivedita along with a few personal belongings are displayed in this Villa.
Along with various training programmes including women's empowerment programme the Centre runs a Gadadhar Abhyudaya Prakalpa (GAP,) for the children.
At present 70 students from neighbouring areas and tea gardens attend this programme. The programme includes regular education, moral education, physical training and food.
On arrival from school the children are provided snacks. Then they attend taekwondo (martial art) classes followed by studies. They are then provided dinner and dropped home.
The RKMNECC also provides free rations for the elderly; clothes for the economically backward and relief during natural calamities.