An ugly incident of caste discrimination unfolded in the Champavat district of Uttarakhand where a Hindu upper-caste student boycotted the meal cooked by a Dalit woman, sparking a row over social discrimination and caste prejudice.
Sunita Devi, a woman from a scheduled caste, was recently appointed as a cook for midday meals, also known as bhojanmata, at a government-run secondary school in Jaul village in Champawat district. She was then tasked with preparing meals for students of classes 6 to 8 as reported by Hindustan Times.
"On the first day (of her joining work), students of upper caste had the midday meal cooked by her without any fuss, but from the next day, they started boycotting the meals," said Prem Singh, principal of Government Inter College, Sukhidhang, said on Monday. "Of the total 57 students, today only 16 students belonging to the scheduled caste had a meal here."
All the government schools compulsorily provide mid-day meals to all students to encourage attendance and ensure nutrition. Sukhidhang Highschool has 2 vacancy for cooks. One of which was recently occupied by Sunita Devi after the retirement of Shakuntala Devi
Singh informed that Sunita Devi was hired by following the due procedure of recruitment.
6-8 Upper Caste Students Boycotted The Meal
The Schools has a total strength of 230 students. Out of the total 66 students of class 6 to 8, some 40 students stopped eating mid-day meals a day after Sunita Devi cooked the meal on December 13, Singh said. The students opted to bring home-cooked meals for lunch instead of eating meals cooked by Sunita Devi.
Parents alleged Discrepancy in Appointment
Parents of all of these students who are boycotting the midday meal claimed that the management committee and Singh had also passed a deserving upper caste candidate for the role.
"We had selected one Pushpa Bhatt, whose child is also enrolled in the college, in an open meeting held on November 25. She was needy too, but the principal and the school management committee sidelined her and appointed a Dalit woman as bhojanmata," said Narendra Joshi, president of the school's parent-teacher association.
Singh said that he has informed the authorities about the appointment and subsequent boycott.
Threat To Social Harmony
"We were having a meal without any discrimination till last week," said a girl student, who belongs to a scheduled caste community and wished not to be named.
"This a horrific incident of boycotting food prepared by Dalit and should be condemned as it is a threat to social harmony," said Harshbardhan Rawat, ex-chairman of the local municipality.