“‘Acting on the directives of the school authority, the cook in our school forced us sit separately from the upper caste students during mid-day meal. Few days back I was assaulted and humiliated by the lady who prepares our mid-day meal and my fault was that I touched the salt jar. It’s very painful for me to go to the school any further,’ said [thirteen-year-old] Bikram.
“‘Sometimes the food is almost thrown at the plates of dalit students from a distance and frequently most of the food given to upper-class students,’ he added. [...]
“This is not the lone story of discrimination at this particular school in the state. According to a study carried out by Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS), twenty percent of students left hungry as they served inadequate quantity of food. Another 20 percent said dalit children were not allowed to serve food, whereas other 14 percent alleged separate seating arrangements during mid-day meals. Likewise 13 percent pupil complained that food dropped on their plate from a distance.”
“For 11-year-old Raja, a Dalit student, mid-day meals at school can be a painful and humiliating experience. He and other Dalit children aremade to sit separately. Sometimes the food is almost thrown at his plate from a distance. Frequently, most of the food is given to upper-caste children. Raja’s parents speak of differential treatment meted out by teachers and mention that their son often feels disturbed and avoids going to school. Yet, as daily-wage agricultural labourers, they depend on the school to take care of at least one meal for Raja. Their complaints have been ignored. In fact, teachers advise students not to complain to their parents.
“Raja’s story is borne out by a survey of 122 schools across seven states, from November 2011 through March 2012, by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS). The states include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. As part of the survey, 1,275 parents were questioned. It threw up several notable findings. For one, Dalit children faced various forms of differential treatment. Twenty per cent of respondents said Dalit children were left hungry as they got inadequate quantities of food, certainly less than children from upper castes. Another 20 per cent said Dalit children were not allowed to serve food; 14 per cent complained of separate seating arrangements during meals. Close to 13 per cent reported Dalit children had food dropped on their plates from a distance. About 9 per cent of respondents said Dalit children had to bring plates from home so their dishes would not get mixed up with those used by upper-caste children. Around 8 per cent said upper-caste children were served first.
“Such discrimination has had clear consequences. Fifty-two per cent of parents mentioned this humiliating treatment discouraged children from going to school. Ten per cent said discrimination had affected their children’s academic performance. Nine per cent reported school had become a painful experience for their children — the unkind treatment had affected their psychological state and created tensions among students. The purpose of the mid-day meal had been to improve attendance and reduce the number of children dropping out. In these cases, the result has been the opposite.”
“A private school in Bangalore, India, is accused of cutting off tufts of hair from poor pupils in order to distinguish them from its better-off students.
“Children from a lower caste Hindu community, attending The Oxford School in accordance with an anti-discrimination law, were forced to wear different uniforms and had some of their hair cut off, claim the parents of four of the pupils.
“Under the Right to Education law, which was passed last year, private schools must reserve a quarter of their enrollment slots for low-income families. Millions of children cannot afford to go to school in India. The law allows poor children between the ages of 6-14 to have free primary school education. There has been a great deal of opposition to the law from schools, and this week more than 1,000 schools in Karnataka are on strike to protest it. The schools claim that the law restricts their autonomy and is a drain on resources.”
“Members of the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti near here prevented their 50 children from attending classes at the local panchayat union school on Tuesday protesting the posting of two Dalit women as cook and helper at the noon meal centre of the school. [...]
“‘We are not against any particular caste. We maintain cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,’ said B. Sanjeevi, ward member of the Kammapatti panchayat. [...]
“District Revenue Officer, R. Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said that the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees.
“‘This is a peculiar habit of this community. We cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability. Posting of people belonging to Kambalathu Naicker can be considered only when the next round of recruitment takes place,’ he said.”
“Caste Hindus of Adayur village near Tiruvannamalai opposed the admission of two dalit boys in the local Panchayat Union Middle School on Monday and prevented their children from attending school in protest. [...]
“Till now, the dalits used to send their children to the Adi Dravidar Welfare Middle School in the village. For the first time, Muthuraj and Sathish, sons of Kumar, a dalit migrant worker, were enrolled in the PUMS in class I and VI on June 6.
“Taking objection to this, the caste Hindu parents assembled at the school on Monday and urged headmaster Mohammed Usman to expel the dalit boys. He refused. [...]
“When some caste Hindu women argued that their girls were teased by dalit boys, Mr. Bupathi said it was irrelevant to the issue at hand and assured them that action would be taken if there was a specific complaint.
“M. Srinivasan, a DMDK functionary representing the caste Hindus said, ‘No dalit has ever been admitted to PUMS and they usually go to their welfare school. This is in practice for 50 years and why should they come here now?’”
“The pain is perceptible in nine-year-old Shankar’s voice as he recounts how he’s made to sit at the back of the class with other children from a ‘low caste’ group. He says his teacher doesn’t wish to accidentally touch them, keeping them as far away as possible from the rest of the children. His peers from the ‘upper caste’ call him an ‘untouchable’; when he complains to the teachers, they see no issue. ‘You are untouchable – what else should they call you?’
“His sister, who is 8, is asked to clean the classroom – that’s her task because she’s a girl and an ‘untouchable.’ At lunch, Shankar says the children from the other castes are served food provided by the government, while his fellow caste children are asked to wait outside the classroom; should any food remain after the teachers and ‘upper caste’ children have eaten, it may then be offered to Shankar and other children from ‘lower castes.’
“The children’s parents point out that a child who’s gone hungry for several meals is unlikely to be able to pay proper attention to classroom instruction. Shankar’s eyes well up with tears as he responds to questions about life as a Dalit child attending the local school. Other Dalit children tell of similar discrimination, complaining that the teachers don’t pay attention to them, call them outcasts and run down their abilities and enthusiasm for education. That’s why the Dalit children rarely go to school; their visits reinforce the feelings of persecution and discrimination.”
“Dalit children at a school in Jagatsinghpur district do not know where they went wrong with their studies because teachers refused to check their notebooks. ‘Ame achuta (We are considered untouchables). The teachers refuse to touch our books and our homework is never corrected,’ said Bijaya Mallick, a student of Class IV at the school at Keutapala in Balikuda block. ‘If we even touch our teachers by mistake, they scold us for polluting them,’ he added.
“The 40 odd Dalit students in the school were allegedly singled out and made to clean classrooms and toilets. ‘I clean toilets at school,’ said Samir Mallick, a Class V student. He looked puzzled when asked why he agreed to do so. ‘The teachers tell me to do it,’ the 11-year-old boy said. ‘We are not even allowed to take water from the drinking pot at school,’ he added.
“Several students and their parents complained that they were victims of caste discrimination by the school staff since long. The final straw, however, was when teachers refused to serve mid-day meals to the children. This prompted incensed parents not to send their wards to school for the past one week.”
“On Thursday, TOI discovered that out of total 135 students, hardly 50 students–mostly Dalits and OBC–were eating the meal that comprised daal, chapati, rice and kheer. The remaining 85 students, mostly Thakurs and Brahmins refused to eat the food or boycotted classes, a practice that started on July 1, 2010, the day the school authorities appointed two new Dalit cooks. There are two upper-caste cooks in the school as well.
“The upper-caste villagers, who were protesting against the issue, said their children would not eat food prepared by Dalit.
“Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA), Ramabai Nagar, Sanjay Shukla, who was present at Jasapur primary school on Thursday, told TOI that the matter had been sorted out and food would be prepared by upper-caste cooks only.
“However, parents were adamant on their stand. ‘Us school mein hum apne bacchon ko nahi padhayenge jahan par “achooton” se khana banwaya jata hai’ (We will not let our wards study in a school where Dalits prepare food, said a villager, Lalla Bhadauriya.”
"In the latest caste-bound conflict, the noon meal was yesterday stopped in a government-run primary school in a remote village under Rajnagar tehsil[, West Bengal] with a section of villagers registering their protest against cooking of mid-day meals by scheduled caste women.
"The meal was stopped yesterday at Sidha Marichani Primary School in Sanamarichapalli village. A section of Village education committee (VEC) members made their way to school kitchen and forced the Dalits cooks to stop the noon meal. Their argument was that Dalits have no right to cook in the school that accommodates the upper caste children.
Two Dalits cooks were locked up inside the kitchen for over an hour before the school head master rescued them. [...]
"The village has a population of about 700 people of which nearly one-third are from lower caste origin.
"As one passes through the backward village with rows of mud-walled and thatched houses, deceptive calm pervades the air. The demographic graph of the village is heavily tilted towards the upper caste. The upper castes, mostly landowners, are economically better off than the Dalits. [...]
"It's pertinent to note here that the School and Mass Education Department was earlier accused of shutting the 'kitchen' doors for Dalit women on the ground that upper caste children may skip the mid-day meals. The government agencies monitoring the scheme in the district had allegedly stopped recruiting the Dalits as cooks.
"The retrenchment drive of Dalit cooks had triggered a furore with the National Human Rights Commission last year directing the administration to stop the caste-bound and arbitrary practice."
"It was an event that brought to the fore the problems of the state's poor children. At a forum in the city, many were incredulous that the children could articulate their problems with such clarity.
"The children at the public hearing were brought to Bangalore from across the state. They were at the hearing organized by the NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY) on Friday.
"Most of the children were dropouts from school, who wished to continue studying. Rekha, 14, from Hassan district said, 'I have studied till class 9. My teacher used to compare me with students from the upper castes, and ask me not to come to school at all. Not just that, the school had no toilet or drinking water, and roof was the sort that might just cave in. I would like to study, but not at that school, not with that teacher.'
"Lakshmi, 15, from Bijapur said, 'I am physically challenged. It was difficult for me even to reach school. I was regular in my attendance, however, but my teachers told me that I am a 'dalit and handicapped', and that I need not come to school. I studied till class 7. I would like to continue studying further. But I would like to go to a school where I'm not treated any differently.'
"Kavya, 12, came to Bangalore from Ramanagar. 'There is one anganawadi [government-sponsored daycare center] in my village. The teachers there do not allow us, dalits, to sit with the other children. My brother was going to that anganawadi, but my parents stopped sending him there because they would not let him mix with the other children. My brother was told not to touch upper caste children.'
"Twelve Dalit children aged between eight and 13 have been hospitalised here after they were allegedly beaten up by some youth belonging to an upper caste Hindu community.
"The attackers, who were allegedly not happy about the children receiving a formal education, wanted to send a message across to all the parents in the Dalit community, about the repercussions if they decided to send their children to school.
"When the children, most of them girls, were returning from school on Friday, they were stopped on their way and beaten up by a group of caste Hindu youth. They also reportedly hurled verbal abuses at the children by referring to their caste, before beating them up.
"While attacking the children, one youngster reportedly said, 'It is only because you people are getting educated that you rush to the police station all the time. This is to teach your parents not to send you to school.'"
"On Monday, the team TOI found that out of the total 62 students barely 26, mostly Dalit and Muslim were eating the meal. The remaining 36 students were found to be absent from their respective classes, in order to avoid eating the meal being prepared by a Dalit.
"The situation has worsened to such an extent that now both the Dalit and Thakur communities of the village are at loggerheads over the issue.
"'We have now learnt that parents of Dalit students have even further threatened to withdraw their wards, if any attempt to remove the Dalit cook will be made by the authorities,' said a school teacher on condition of anonymity.
"Meanwhile, the upper caste people of the village said that there is no question of sending children to school, where a woman belonging to scheduled caste has been appointed by the school authorities to cook food for their children.
"'Us school mein apne bacchon ko bhejkar hame apna hukka-paani nahi band karwana hai,' said a villager, Ram Pal Singh adding that we will not allow our children to even touch the food."
See also yet another instance of this form of bigotry:
"The report says physical access to schools is the biggest problem for Dalit children. In Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, most of the schools are situated in the dominant caste localities and Dalit children have to travel on an average half-an-hour to reach school. In the case of middle and high schools, Dalit children have to travel almost 3-4 kilometres in all the states. It is only in Maharashtra that Dalit children do not have to travel that far. But here too, the schools are located in dominant caste areas.
"Asked why they came late to school, Dalit children gave various reasons including household chores, school distance, inability to keep track of school time and also the fact that they had to wait for other friends to go in a group due to fear from dominant caste children. In the school, it was found that participation of Dalit children was minimal. The morning assembly was invariably always conducted by upper caste children. In the class, Dalit children were made to sit at the back and in some schools of Bihar on the barren floor while mats were given to upper caste children. Even the notebooks and homework of the Dalit children were not checked by teachers.
"As per the report, Dalit children in UP were also assigned menial caste-based tasks like cleaning the yard, filling up water buckets and cleaning the toilets. This led to other children treating them badly and considering them inferior. And what was shocking was that Dalit girl children were seldom allowed to use toilets. Dalit children are kept out of even functions like Independence Day."
"According to a survey on social discrimination conducted by Jansahas, an NGO, and Unicef, in 24 villages across four districts – Ujjain, Sheopur, Katni and Jhabua – in Madhya Pradesh, more than 63 per cent of Dalit children are subjected to caste discrimination while being served mid-day meals in government schools.
"They are forced to sit in separate rows, bring utensils from home or given food in plates marked boldly with permanent ink to distinguish them from the rest.
“'As many as 40 per cent of Dalit students facing discrimination were given mid-day meals in plates specially set aside for them,' Jansahas activist Ashif Sheikh told Hindustan Times.
"While some were asked to bring utensils from home, most were served their mid-day meals on leaf plates. Non-Dalits, however, were served on metal plates.
"The survey found that most teachers were insensitive to the discrimination against Dalits because of caste-based traditions being followed in rural areas, he said.
"In a majority of the schools surveyed, Dalit students were not allowed to sit in the front row. As many as 78 per cent of school-going Dalit students were backbenchers or forced away from the front row and subjected to casteist abuses.
"And 79 per cent of such students were compelled to clean the schools. In some schools, this chore was given only to Dalit girls."
"A somewhat strange purification ritual took place in Surewada village near Bhandara last April. Students appearing for a geography examination in the local school were taken aback when a teacher sprinkled what was suspected to be cow urine on them as well as their answer sheets. The headmaster and assistant teacher of the school were arrested under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The ritual was supposedly performed 'to purify' the school after the transfer of a Scheduled Caste headmistress.
"The case went to trial and on July 15, 2008, a special judge in Bhandara ruled that the charges under the Atrocities Act were not tenable and the prosecution had failed to establish that the liquid which was sprinkled on the students was cow urine. [...] The verdict in this instance is more the rule than the exception for offences under the Atrocities Act. According to an official report, 'Crime in Maharashtra, 2007,' by the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) released this year, the conviction rate under the Atrocities Act for 2007 was a minuscule 1.9 and for offences against Scheduled Castes it was 2.2 per cent. In 2007, the CID report says the rate of crime against Scheduled Castes was the highest in Bhandara district."
"On Friday, The Indian Express found barely a hundred students eating the meal — tehri — rice and vegetables cooked together. The rest ate food brought from home, a practice that started on December 10, the day the Dalit woman, Phool Kumari Rawat, started cooking.
"Senior students who are boycotting the food, say Phool Kumari's cooking is unhygienic. [...]
"Younger students are more direct, readily admitting that it was Phool Kumari's caste that was the problem. '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 Shivani Singh Chauhan, a student of Class IV. Ateet Kumar, student of Class V, said the school was in a Thakur [brahmin] area and they refuse to eat whatever she cooks. 'Only children from Phool Kumari's area are eating,' he said."
"With a majority of students at the Bibipur Primary and Junior High School continuing to boycott mid-day meals cooked by Dalit woman Phool Kumari Rawat, the district administration has decided to sack her.
"Officials are now thinking of appointing another cook, using the boycotters’ argument that Phool Kumari’s cooking isn’t good and is also unhygienic. This, when most officials who have visited the school in the last five days, found nothing wrong with the meals."
Karnataka:Discrimination against cook continues (The Hindu, October 5, 2007): "The branding of Ms. Bhovi, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, as HIV positive and the subsequent boycott by the villagers has taken a toll on her family too."