By Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa
Sunita Devi, a Dalit woman who was hired to be a school cook in Sukhidhang government inter college (Secondary school), was fired after students refused to eat her food. Devi supposedly had no issues on her first day. The day after, however, 44 out of the 60 students, with support from their parents, refused to eat the school food and began bringing food from home.
Devi was hired in early December. The temporary position only paid Rs. 3000 ($40.23 USD) a month.
RC Purohit, chief education officer of Champawat district, stated to the Hindustan Times “We found during the inquiry that the principal of the college had failed to follow the norms in the appointment. After this, we cancelled the appointment of the Dalit Bhojanmata (school cook) unanimously.”
He then added “The principal should have taken approval before the appointment but he failed to follow the norms. As per norms, approval is must from DEO (Deputy Education Officer) before the appointment. Now, whole process will be again conducted and the Dalit bhojanmata can again apply,”
There is no indication that Devi could be hired again. The reaction from students and parents, as well as the fact that this all happened after her firing, is a good enough indicator that it's less likely.
There is a long and dark history when it comes to food service between castes in India. Dalit food has been seen by upper caste members as “impure” or “polluted”.
Anita Arya, a local activist, stated to the Hindustan Times “This kind of discrimination will alienate scheduled caste people from the society. Dalit woman should be given opportunity to serve as bhojanmata if she fulfil the norms and parents of upper caste students must understand that it will strengthen relationship in the society.”
Correction: In the initial posting of this article, we claimed that the school segregated students based on their caste. This is incorrect and was based on a misunderstanding of an article that reported that the school cafeteria is intentionally desegregated on caste lines. We apologize for the error.