New Delhi: At Shri Sokhda Primary School in Gujarat’s Morbi district, 147 of the school’s 153 students hailing from Other Backwards Classes (OBC) communities have been refusing to eat the meals served under the government’s Midday Meals scheme, allegedly because they had been cooked by a Dalit woman.
According to a complaint filed with the Morbi Police, the students’ parents had objected to their children eating meals prepared by one Dhara Makwana, a Dalit woman who had been awarded the contract for the government job to prepare the meals by school authorities in June.
The Times of India, in a report, quoted the woman’s husband, Gopi, who said that after the students refused to queue for their food, he went to ask their parents why.
“They told me they could not allow their children to eat food cooked by a Dalit woman,” Gopi alleged. A large quantity of food Markwana had prepared went to waste.
Following the incident, Gopi filed a complaint with the police, which he said was transferred to the deputy superintendent of police. However, he also told the newspaper that police officers told him that since this was a matter between the school authorities and the district administration, they could not intervene.
The school principal told the newspaper that two meetings here were held on the issue by the school authorities and the parents of the students, however, the latter were adamant and refused to change their stance.
“We can teach the children not to have a casteist attitude and that all are equal and no one is untouchable. Sadly, we cannot convince their parents,” the Times quoted the principal as saying.
This is not the first time such an incident has taken place in the country. In the past, reports from several states have emerged wherein students from ‘upper’ castes, generally at the behest of their parents, have refused to eat the Midday Meals prepared by a person from the Dalit community.
A similar incident took place at an Uttarakhand school in December, 2021, where the parents of the students protested the Dalit cook’s appointment, apart from directing their children not to eat the meals and even sending them to school with tiffin boxes after learning about the cook’s caste background.
Thereafter, the cook filed a complaint under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as well as sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and was eventually given her government job back.
However, in May this year, the same school made headlines once more after a smaller section of ‘upper’-caste students, once again, refused to eat the meals.
This article was first published on The Wire.