Meal row over food cooked by Dalit
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 12: Untouchability has reared its ugly head once
again in Kendrapara district, as upper caste students have stopped
attending classes just because the school appointed Dalit women to
cook midday meals.
Authorities of the government-run Maa Marichandi Nodal School in
Rajnagar's Sanamarichapalli village engaged a local self-help group
(SHG) for cooking the midday meals.
Trouble began on January 19 when the SHG withdrew the two previous
cooks and engaged two Dalit women — Ketaki Sethi and Sebati Sethi — to
prepare the meals.
A section of upper caste parents objected to their appointment and
even had arguments with the school authorities.
However, when the headmaster refused to change the new cooks, the
parents turned violent. "Last week, they even locked up the two cooks
inside the kitchen for about an hour till we were able to free them,"
headmaster Rabindra Nayak said.
Following the incident, the cooks filed an FIR at the Rajnagar police
station. "We have arrested one Niranjan Pradhan. He was produced at
the Pattamundei court and sent to judicial custody after being denied
bail," said inspector-in-charge Maheshwar Sethi.
Pradhan was a member of the village education committee, added Sethi.
Following the incident, upper caste students refused to eat meals at
the school and cooking was stopped for some days but it has resumed
now and the same women are cooking it.
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