Upper-caste students at Uttarakhand govt school again refuse to eat Dalit cook’s food

The Uttarakhand government school where a number of upper-caste students had boycotted mid-day meals prepared by a Dalit cook is seeing a rerun of the same controversy just a few months later.

The principal of the school in Champawat district, Prem Singh, said Friday that around 7-8 students have again refused to eat the food cooked by Sunita Devi — who had been sacked in the aftermath of the row in December, before being reappointed. Mid-day meals resumed in the school from the end of March.

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After the latest episode, the Champawat District Magistrate (DM), Narender Singh Bhandari, Friday held a meeting with the parents of these students and asked them to ensure that the children eat the meals.

“Today, the DM and a few police officials had a meeting with the students and their parents and tried to convince them to stop boycotting the meal. The officials themselves had a meal at the school. However, these 7-8 students still refused to eat, claiming they do not eat rice,” said the principal of Swatantra Sangram Senani Late Shri Ram Chandra Government Inter College in Jaul village.

The principal, too, held a meeting with the parents the previous day. “We warned them that the children could be expelled from the school. During the meeting on Thursday, 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,” he told The Indian Express.

Beginning December 13 last year, around 66 students at the school refused to eat meals prepared by Sunita. On December 23, Champawat district officials sacked the Dalit cook, citing procedural lapses in her appointment.

Later, 23 Dalit students at the same school refused to eat the mid-day meals cooked by an upper-caste woman who replaced Sunita. Days later, Sunita filed a complaint under the SC/ST Act and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC. Soon after, the district administration announced that she would be reinstated.
Sunita, too, said that 7-8 students are still not eating the food, but that she is not bothered by this. “I have been asked to cook meals only for those willing to eat.”

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