They don’t like rice: Parents defend students who refuse meals prepared by Dalit cook

On December 13 last year, in the same school, around 66 students belonging to the upper caste refused to eat the food cooked by the Dalit cook

Around 7-8 students of Uttarakhand government school refused to eat midday meals cooked by a Dalit woman named Sunita Devi. The Indian Express spoke to Prem Singh, the principal of the school located in Champawat district who confirmed the incident.

The principal held a meeting with the parents. “We warned them that the children could be expelled from the school. During the meeting on Thursday (May 19), the parents assured us that they will speak to their children about eating the food, but asked us not to put pressure on the students,” Singh was quoted by The Indian Express.

This is not an isolated incident. On December 13 last year, in the same school, around 66 students belonging to the upper caste refused to eat the food cooked by Sunita. They boycotted the food prompting Champawat district officials to sack her. Officials cited procedural lapses in her appointment.

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A new cook, belonging to the upper caste was appointed but this led to another boycott, this time by students of the Dalit community. Sunita also filed a complaint against her sacking under the SC/ST Act and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. Soon after, the district administration announced that she would be brought back.

Now the incident has been repeated again. This time 7-8 students are protesting against Sunita’s re-appointment.

Latest Developments:

There has been significant development with the parents of the revolting students saying that the reason for the children’s refusal to eat mid-day meals was not caste, but reportedly due to their dislike for rice.

They told this in front of the district’s high officials, including the district magistrate, Champawat chief education officer Jitendra Saxena told PTI.

Saxena said that the district magistrate of Champawat, the sub-collector of Tanakpur, and he himself had gone to the school on Friday, where the parents of the revolting students were also called and asked the reason for the refusal of food.

Saxena told PTI said that the parents said that their children do not eat rice even at home, while pulses, vegetables, and rice are available in the mid-day meal.

“We explained to the children that if they do not eat rice, then eat pulses and vegetables, but sit and eat food with everyone in school. We officials also sat down and ate food with the school principal and children,” he said.

The official said the matter was not caste-based and the matter was exaggerated, PTI reported.

Saxena said that the district magistrate has said that at present the code of conduct is in force in the district due to the by-elections and after its removal, it will be reviewed again to see how much impact the explanation had on the children.

(With inputs from PTI)

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