At Siddu's alma mater, students boycott dalit cook

Dozens of children skip class, others refuse mid-day meals

At Siddu's alma mater, students boycott dalit cook

Dozens of students at the Government Higher Primary School at Kuppegala village in Mysuru district have skipped class while others have stopped eating mid-day meals to protest the appointment of a dalit cook.

On Friday, 33 students stayed away from school while seven refrained from eating the food citing health reasons. When the issue had previously cropped up in October, about 60 students had skipped the school.

The situation improved when students resumed classes four days ago after the assistant cook Manjula stayed at home citing a broken tooth. Two cooks belonging to the upper caste are preparing meals, much to the satisfaction of aggrieved parties. The headmaster, Chikkadeva, made a vain bid to convince her to come back to work. The president of the Standing Committee on Public Health and Education in the zilla panchayat, Arjunahalli Rajanna, hopes to convene a peace meeting once the situation improves.

The position of the assistant cook, which was reserved for a SC candidate, had remained vacant for the last six years as upper caste parents threatened to keep children away from school.

However, taking the issue on priority, a team of officials led by Assistant Commissioner Saeeda Aiisha directed the School Development Management Committee (SDMC) to fill the vacancy. Accordingly, Manjula from the village was recruited and she reported to work after Dasara.

However, protesting her appointment, about 60 students, who initially refused to eat food prepared by Manjula, later stopped attending classes.

None other than Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is an alumnus of the  school. He has been involved with the continuing tussles between the upper castes and dalits of the village. Further dust was kicked up over the common burial ground in the village when an upper caste man allegedly encroached upon the land.

Although the chief minister had promised to sort out the issue by ordering the district administration to grant 1.5 acres of land for a dalit burial ground, it still remains on the paper. Besides, dalits were recently allowed entry to the Anjaneya Swamy and Marigudi temples with the intervention of officials, triggering unrest among the upper castes who forced the priest to stay away from the temple. The community hall in the village is still prohibited for dalits.

Assistant Commissioner Saeeda Aiisha told Deccan Herald, “The process to buy 1.2 acres of land for burial ground near River Kapila flowing near the village has been already launched. The proposal has been submitted to the deputy commissioner, while permission has been already given to dalits to use the same land for final rites. The land belongs to an individual.”

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