Dalit cook fired from school files police complaint
A 32-year-old Dalit woman, who was fired from her position as the cook of a government school in Uttarakhand after “upper-caste” students refused to eat meals made by her, filed a complaint of harassment to the district authorities and police on Thursday.
Sunita Devi, who lost her job a day ago over an alleged violation of norms, said she has sought action against the parents of the students who refused to eat food cooked by her. “I have handed over my complaint to local administration as well as police about my harassment by the parents of the upper caste students. I was hurt and felt insulted by their refusal to eat midday meals cooked by me,” said Devi.
Devi was appointed as the cook, or bhojanmata, of the Sukhidhang government inter college (GIC) in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district, on December 13 but a day later, some 40 upper-caste students in classes 6 to 8 -- out of a total of 66 pupils in these classes -- stopped eating the meals and started bringing tiffin from home, said Prem Singh, the principal.
The boycott sparked an inquiry, and on Wednesday, the district authorities scrapped Devi’s appointment and said norms were not followed while giving her the job. Parents of the upper-caste children backed the boycott, and alleged that Devi was chosen as the cook by overlooking a more deserving candidate, Pushpa Bhatt, a Brahmin. On Wednesday, they welcomed Devi’s removal and said the issue had been resolved. After she was fired, Devi approached tehsil office in Tanakpur and the police outpost in Chalthi, and handed over a complaint about the harassment by the parents of upper-caste students. She sought action against the parents who allegedly provoked their children to boycott food made by the Dalit woman.
Pinki Arya, officiating tehsildar of the Purnagiri tehsil in Tanakpur, said as she was on VIP duty, her office might have received the complaint. “I will look into the complaint tomorrow and take appropriate action in the matter,” she added.
Parents of the children who refused to eat food made by Devi, refuted her allegation. “Parents have not done any act of harassment as the bhojanmata is claiming. We oppose the faulty process of the bhojanmata’s appointment which was proved in education officers’ inquiry,” said Narendra Joshi, president of the parent teachers association. But local Dalit activists rejected the charge. “We met the additional district magistrate and demanded a magisterial inquiry,” said Govind Baudh, president of the Bhim Army in Kumaon.