In a case of caste-based discrimination, upper-caste schoolchildren of a government school near Belthangady were prevented by their parents from having midday meal after they were informed that a Dalit cook worked there on Friday afternoon.

Of the 43 children at the Surya Primary School, Nada village, 15 students were pulled out by their parents, all reportedly from upper castes, before the mid-day meal was served at the school, said Lokesh C., Block Education Officer, Belthangady.

Sumitra, who comes from the Adi Dravida Scheduled Caste community, had been appointed by Nada Gram Panchayat as a cook and started her duty on Friday. However, as the news of her appointment spread, at around noon, parents gathered in front of the school, pulled out the children from the school and demanded her removal, said the BEO who would be heading investigations into the incident.

An hour later, members of the Dalita Hakkugalu Horatta Samiti protested in front of the school, seeking criminal action against the parents. “Even those who are a part of the school development and monitoring committee withdrew their children. This comes under atrocity against Scheduled Castes persons,” said Shekar L., from the Samiti. Late in the afternoon, after members of the samiti approached the Belthangady police, parents were warned not to repeat this. “They have apologised for the incident, and claimed that they were instigated by a gram panchayat member. When we asked around, we were informed that the member was promised the job of the cook, but was sidelined by the gram panchayat as they wanted an SC candidate,” said Yogesh Kumar, Sub-Inspector, Belthangady station. He said since no complaint was given, and no caste slurs were uttered, a case would not be lodged. Calling it the first such complaint in the district, Manjula K.L., Educational Officer, Akshara Dasoha, Dakshina Kannada, said the department would visit the school on Friday and take action if the practice continued.

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