Who hearts the News tab? I totally do and since I had a few moments, I managed to do what I always intend but never get around to– I checked which story was currently “most interesting” as measured by the “top in 24 hr” link. Eleven of us thought the following tip, which was submitted by Condekedar a few days ago, was important:
Condekedar wrote this rather attention-getting summary…
A sad reminder of the continued existence of caste-discrimination. This story is even worse, because it’s children who are showing their bigotry, not just prejudiced older people.
Via The Independent:
By her own admission, the lunches cooked by Phool Kumari Rawat may not always be the tastiest food the pupils at her school have ever eaten. And with more than 300 students to cook for, getting the proportions right can be a struggle.
But the children of Bibipur Primary and Junior High School near Lucknow have not launched a boycott of Mrs Rawat’s food because of its taste, but because Mrs Rawat is a Dalit, a so-called Untouchable. As a result, they say, the food is unclean.
A whole new generation, India’s best generation yet with regards to opportunity, learning the worst about others. Condekedar is right; it is extra-disheartening to read about such sentiments from little kids.
Such incidents are not uncommon in India, where caste remains a debilitating and divisive phenomenon, especially for those 75 per cent of people who live in rural communities. But the boycott at Bibipur is especially noteworthy because it is taking place in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the state which this year elected a Dalit woman, Mayawati Kumari, as its chief minister. Campaigners say that despite Mayawati’s poll victory, Dalits still suffer widespread discrimination.
First, they did right by the woman:
When the boycott of the meals began last week, local officials stood by Mrs Rawat, a widow with three children, and tried to persuade the students that there was nothing unhygienic about her food. Officials who inspected her cooking said there were no problems and one even ate the lunch â€“ vegetables and rice â€“ in front of the students to persuade them to end their boycott.
…but they didn’t stay strong:
But The Indian Express newspaper reports that with the children not backing down from the boycott, the authorities are now poised to sack Mrs Rawat.
Two issues are being conflated; the quality of the lunches and the hands which cook them. If it were merely about the former, I don’t think anyone would fault the kids. The revolt might even be framed as a cute rebellion by pigtailed and cow-licked children, standing up for their right to yumminess. But…
Tellingly, children who live in Mrs Rawat’s neighbourhood are still eating the lunches, while those involved in the boycott have reportedly made little effort to hide their reason for refusing to eat. “I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box,” said one pupil, Shivani Singh Chauhan.
So much for Mayawati ushering in a new era?
However, Ram Kumar, of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, said: “There are no equal rights in UP. We have a Dalit chief minister but more than 80 per cent of the bureaucracy are members of the upper caste. There are many villages in UP that are totally dominated by caste and there is not any chance of social equality.”
Oh, the poignant resignation in these words:
Mrs Rawat, who earns the equivalent of just 75p a day, said: “I am a widow with three kids. Earlier, I worked as a labourer. If they remove me from here I will accept it as my fate and will again work as a labourer.”
They removed her.
Fast forward a few days…it looks like she’s not quite ready to accept her fate, just yet:
Phool Kumari Rawat, the Dalit woman at the centre of the mid-day meal controversy in Bibipur Primary and Junior High School, came to Lucknow today and sat on a dharna in front of the Vidhan Sabha.[IndianExpress]
I’ll admit that I had no idea what that meant. For those of you who are also not acquainted with “dharna”:
A fast conducted at the door of an offender, especially a debtor, in India as a means of obtaining compliance with a demand for justice, such as payment of a debt.[Bartleby, but not the scrivener]
And for commenter Amitabh and those who love language like he does, from the same non-scrivener link:
ETYMOLOGY: Hindi dharn, from Prakrit dharaa, from Sanskrit dharaam, act of supporting, stay.
Good for her. Go on with your bad self, lady. What a righteous way to protest how she was forced out. Seems necessary, too, considering that predictably, “officials” are refuting her cries of discrimination by saying that she was let go because the village committee which had appointed her was abolished out of concerns regarding corruption, i.e. she’s an indirect victim of something else which has nothing to do with her caste.
In Lucknow, Phool Kumari herself had yet another story to tell. â€œControversy began the day I started cooking at the school. When I went there to serve food on December 11, principal V D Dixit told me that his students would not eat meals cooked by a Dalit woman,â€ said Phool Kumari.
She added: â€œThe children would come to me each day and tell me that I cooked unhygienically, even though all outsiders â€” officials and members of social organisations â€” didnâ€™t find anything wrong with the meal.â€.[IndianExpress]
Way to keep the best interest of the children in mind there, Dixit.
There were further developments out of Lucknow, today:
The state SC/ST commission has accepted a petition filed by Ambedkar Mahasabha â€” a social organisation working for the rights of Dalits. The education and administration officials have been called for the first hearing on Thursday and explain the reason behind her removal.
Well, look what pathetic activities some investigating uncovered:
The Mahasabha has alleged that Phool Kumari was removed under pressure from higher castes. It has also asked the commission to punish the concerned officers under ST/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. â€œOur members visited the school and the village and talked to cross section of people. It was found that the teachers belonging to higher castes have instigated the children to oppose Phool Kumari. We have asked that education officers be punished too,â€ said Bina Maurya, national general secretary of the Mahasabha.
SR Darapuri, vice-president of the district wing of Mahasabha said: â€œIn our petition, we have made it clear that dismissal of cook is not only illegal but if it goes unnoticed, it will encourage untouchability in other schools.â€[IndianExpress]
Here’s hoping Phool Kumari and her quondam students get what they each deserve; respect for her, and for them, guidance from progressive adults who are not ass hats.