Published: 01st October 2021
Line of discrimination: Dalit children in Amethi school made to sit in separate rows for mid day meals by headmistress
This is the second instance of discrimination against Dalit children in a school in Uttar Pradesh in recent history - and it's all coming to a head just after reopening
In a shocking incident, Dalit children were allegedly forced to sit in separate rows for mid-day meals by the headmistress of a school in Uttar Pradesh's Banpurwa village, according to news reports. The village is in a district that was once synonymous with the Gandhi clan but is now represented by Smriti Irani — Amethi. This is particularly worrisome as just a few days ago, Dalit students of a school in the nearby Mainpuri district were forced to keep their utensils separately from those used for 'other' children.
The Headmistress of Banpurwa Government Primary School, Kusum Soni, was suspended on September 28 and an FIR has been registered against her for using casteist slurs and discriminating against the Dalit children. Soni has denied all the allegations levelled against her in a statement to The Indian Express, where she reportedly said, “I have been working at Banpurwa Government Primary School for over four years and only now such baseless allegations have been made. This whole thing started because I was late for school one day.”
Jyoti Rao, a 10-year-old student of the school, has alleged that the headmistress would make Dalit students like her queue up separately during the mid-day meal and would often beat them for petty reasons. Jyoti, whose father is a farmer, reportedly told The Indian Express, “We are made to sit separately during lunch time… The teacher (headmistress) is always late herself, but if someday we are even slightly late, we are beaten up. If we do anything even slightly wrong, we are beaten up.”
The school has 38 students, 23 of them belonging to Scheduled Castes, 11 OBCs and four from the general category, according to the report. The report further states that the school caters to three neighbouring villages — Banpurwa with an entirely SC population; Ganderi village with a mixed population of SCs and OBCs and Dubane Purwa, dominated by upper castes.
Why did it take so long to complain? It didn't. Dalit families say that once earlier when complaints by the students had reached the Ganderi village pradhan, they were thrashed by the headmistress over this.
Things finally came to a head when Vinay Kumar, the pradhan, and the grandparent said villagers had approached him. “I went to the school along with my representative Pawan Dubey and did not find the headmistress,” Kumar said in his complaint made to the local SHO against Soni.
Basic Shiksha Adhikari Arvind Pathak said a tweet by the pradhan on the matter caught their attention. “I visited the school and talked to some guardians who alleged discrimination against their children over caste. They said the headmistress ordered Dalit students to sit in separate rows for the mid day meal,” said Pathak reportedly, adding that they had suspended Soni and got an FIR registered under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.