Saturday, July 31, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Now, caste wars over mid-day meal in UP

Now, caste wars over mid-day meal in UP

Manjari Mishra, TNN, Jul 31, 2010, 01.03am IST

LUCKNOW: Caste war in UP seems to be assuming different dimensions,
proves recent spate of mid-day meal boycott in UP government schools.
The two major incidents at Sonbhadra and Kannauj which led to a lunch
hour rebellion in more than a dozen schools over a month, were
triggered off by a power-play between Dalits and backwards while the
`savarnas' -- in minuscule minority -- were relegated to the role of
fringe players.

Investigation carried out by a three-member team from Ambedkar
Mahasabha has thrown up quite a few surprises. On June 20, the
government school in Ghosra Sonbhadra hit headlines after its students
refused to partake lunch prepared by a Dalit cook. Ghosra, the team
discovered, was a hamlet with a predominant Kharvar, a Scheduled
Tribe, population. There are 70 Kharvar households as against 40
houses belonging to the Chamars.

The break up, says general secretary of AMS Veena Maurya, was Chero
(SC) 25, Turia (SC) two, Gond (ST) eight, Agaria (ST) 10 families. The
village has only one Baniya and five Yadav families, Maurya said.

The trouble began when the Kharvar kids refused to touch the lunch
cooked by Prabhawati, a Chamar by caste. In retaliation, the Chamar
group in the school decided to boycott the meal Phoolwati, the Kharwar
cook, had prepared, says Maurya. She squarely blamed the parents for
polluting the impressionable minds by transferring their age-old

Sub-casters within SCs and STs also have their own hierarchy system,
says police officer turned social activist Darapuri. So the Pasi or
Chamar community will not have any social ties with Valmikis, Khatiks
will maintain a distance with Chamars. Unless this issue is sorted out
within the SC and ST segment, the larger issue of unteachability and
exploitation cannot be tacked, he said.

For instance, in Bhadurpur Manjhganva in Kannauj, food cooked by a
Valmiki woman led to public violence when Dhobis, the dominant
community, laid a siege to the school. Similarly, in neighbouring
Haribhanpur headmaster BS Kushwaha, who shared a meal cooked by a
Valmiki to set an example before his students, became an outcaste in
Chamar/Pasi dominated village. Even in the affected belt of Auraiyya,
Kanpur Dehat, Mahoba, etc., the caste equation is more or less

Incidentally, till three years ago SC/ST cooks were more of exception.
A survey by Right to Food Committee in 2007 detailed that out of the
216 schools they examined, the ratio of SC/ST and Muslim cooks was
17%, 3% and 1%, respectively. Rest of the 79% work force hailed from
upper castes. Even then MDM strikes were pretty common.

Former chairperson of UP SC/ST Commission Shriram Arun suggests
community fine and stringent action against guilty to end the menace.
This could serve as effective deterrent and put an end to the evil, he

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