National » Tamil Nadu

Updated: September 4, 2012 03:53 IST

Now, the food they cook is ‘untouchable’

R. Ilangovan
Comment (49)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
S. Sundaravanitha
S. Sundaravanitha

A host of Dalit women, who cook food for children at noon meal centres attached to schools in various villages in Kadayampatti Union in Salem district, say they are facing a social boycott.

Caste Hindus in a few villages are preventing their children from having the noon meal cooked by Dalit women cooks, claiming that it is “a sin to eat food cooked by them.”

The government-appointed Dalit women cooks, under the MGR Nutritious Noon Meal Scheme on a temporary monthly pay of Rs. 1300-3000, are not allowed to do their job.

“I feel like dying,’ said S. Sundaravanitha, a Dalit woman cook, who had been facing boycott since her appointment on August 16, 2012.

She told The Hindu here on Friday that she said she had been undergoing trauma since the day she was appointed as a cook at the Panchayat Union Elementary School at Rasipurathan Kattuvalavu village in Kadayampatti Union.

“From day one, I have been hounded and harassed. The Vanniyars-only village feel ‘ashamed’ to permit their children to have the food cooked by a Dalit,” she said. The village panchayat president also expressed his inability to help her.

After discussing it with local officials, the Salem district administration transferred her to the centre at the Union Middle School at Mookanur, which happened to be her native village, on deputation. But her woes were far from over. Since her village people knew that she was a Dalit, they too raised the caste issue against her.

“Of the total 75 students who used to have noon meal, only 20 students, a majority of whom are Dalits, now have food at the centre. Others have been forced to abstain. A few youths barged into the centre recently and abused me in filthy language,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.

An official in Kadayampatti Union said that to prevent any untoward incident, she was shifted from Rasipurathan village. “It is a sensitive issue. This village of Vanniyars strongly opposed her.

As Mookanur has an equal share of all castes, we believed that her appointment would not create any unpleasant situation there,” he said, adding that they had been facing similar situations in two other centres in the Union.

The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi alleged that seven Dalit women cooks in Kadayampatti alone were facing social boycott.

Poomozhi of the Tamil Nadu People Rights Movement wanted action under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against those who promoted untouchability. The Democratic Youth Federation of India staged a demonstration on Saturday, demanding their arrest.

it is very shame such things happens in Tamilnadu.Periyar worked for eradication of the caste system for several decades.Dravidian parties also preaching for the abolition of untouchability.But nothing happened in the rural areas of Tamilnadu.We need political will of all the political parties in Tamilnadu to eradicate untouchability.Conversion is not the solution for this evil.All the political and social movemnts shuld join together to eradicate this evil....udayakumar

from:  udayakumar
Posted on: Sep 6, 2012 at 15:22 IST

Dalits in India face a number of restrictions on their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Dalits are forced to live segregated lives and perform menial occupations because they are born into a caste outside of the Hindu varna system.The cast system is very strong in Tamil Nadu and traditional distinctions are more pronounced than in the rest of India. The Brahmin community is very fervent here . Dalits are routinely denied entry into Hindu temples . Dalits have responded to ill-treatment by upper-caste Hindus.As a result a mass conversion into Buddhism, Christianity, Islam are seen here in Tamil Nadu.

“a sin to eat food cooked by them.”
These illegal practices, traditions and beliefs make it difficult for Dalit women to attain higher aspirations in life. Violent atrocities occur regularly in the names of tradition and religion. Tamil Nadu, we are seeking to raise international awareness on the situation faced by Dalits, especially women.

Posted on: Sep 5, 2012 at 14:17 IST

Sad to see such things happening in India. Who ploughs our fields for us? Who sows seeds;who maintains; who harvests? for us. 90% such jobs are done by Dalits. We deliciously gulp down produces of all their effort.Respect them; salute them.Be thankful human beings.

from:  Jojo Jose
Posted on: Sep 5, 2012 at 13:21 IST

Degoutante. Totally.

from:  Prof. Oopali Operajita
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 18:26 IST

Personal hygiene should be the criteria to make such decisions. If anyone who is ignorant or
deficiant in this area, needed to be nurtured to accept better food handling methods. Religion
and caste has very little anything to do with it. I have seen high cast Brahmins spitting all over
after their 'pan eating' as well as blowing their nose and smearing it on the electric post. Caste
did not make any difference for such unhygienic acts!

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 18:15 IST

The only solution for this is, all the dalit in india should Convert in to Buddisam. What Dr.Ambedkar did in 1956 .Buddisam is the only Dhamma.

from:  Nishikant
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 18:09 IST

Great...Then don't complain India not developing..

from:  nrkkalyan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 18:04 IST

Govt cannot push children to accept their policies while depriving a
section of society. It's the Govt's fault to give undue privilege of
reservation to certain members of society while not others. The divide
is caused by the govt's. The children have a right to boycott, just like
a Congress MP Warda says, he has every right to do business in the India
(the people read it as corruption).

from:  Krishna S Bala
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 17:38 IST

We (Indians) scream at the top of our voice when some Indian is racially abused in Australia, Europe, or US.
But here we have our own so called "Upper Caste" racially discriminating our people.
Mera Bharat Mahan.

from:  zafar abbas
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 17:26 IST

There is also another dimension to this story, I assume. For
appointment of cooks in Noon Meal Scheme, the politicians were all
waiting to make a kill. Everyone was making false promises and
swindling the common people but this time lot of transparency was in
the act of selection. We understand that three District Collectors
refused to dance to the tunes of politicians and most honestly
conducted the interviews and selected the candidates. Possibilities
are that the petty political goons venting their disappointment on
these hapless women. Further probe into the matter will clear the
doubts and will give warning signals to anyone who indulges in these

from:  chandrasekaran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 15:21 IST

Shocking to read such events taking place in Tamilnadu and other places in India. Who are those people sowing such seeds of poison to young children? When are we going to learn to realise that we are all human being and in the eyes of divine God, all are same? People of India need to realise that the differences between caste, creed, color, sex are all created by selfish politicians for their own vote bank purposes and it is the people who need to rise above all these petty & irrelevant things. Those who propagate such ideas that the food cooked by dalits is not to be eaten should also refrain from eating anything since, the farmer producing rice, wheat, pulses, vegetables also may be dalits!!! Absence of education, rampant illeteracy, inability to think rationally are some of key reasons which facilitates the politicians to sow such poison seeds for their own corrupt purposes.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 15:17 IST

It will be better if the action is taken soon. So many caste related issues within our state. River and dam related problem within our country. With all these clusters there is no use in raising hands against Pakistan and Srilanka.

from:  R. Pandi Ganesh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 15:11 IST

The caste issue in TN is worse.I have been there for 4 yrs while studying engg. Because of these type of issues people from sc/st background are forced to change their religion. Most christians in TN are sc/st hindus.
TN has got lots of resources, but people are still in 18th century. Even the educated guys from my college support this caste attrocities.
TN needs to change, it's pathetic to see such grave things against poor and downtroddens.

from:  Prashant sharma
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 14:18 IST

This is not the case happening only in south india, there are lots of atrocities happening in North as well. Literacy does not have anything do with this. Infact after going to school only, people start thinking about their castes. when you join your child in the school, you are asked to mention about your caste. Let the government decide to eliminate this first from the education system. Rest will fall in place automatically. People may make comments on this as if they are all very genuine. Can any one of the persons who have opined above can say wholeheartedly that they will take food or share their food with any low level corportation sweeper or toilet cleaners?

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 13:53 IST

First of let me ask who are these upper cast fanatics to boycot someone who is appointed by govenrment.It is ridiculous and definitely barbarian.How on earth they inject the poison of casteism in the minds of little innocent buds by persuading them to boycot the noon meal cooked by a Dalit women.Are we livinh in a world of modernity?I was egregious to hear that a women was abused at a centre by some youth for the same.Where are the so called acts of protection to the down-trodden poeple of our country.I fail to understand why poeple show discrimination in the basis of cast.I am sad at the authority's action to transfer the lady from place to place for getting her a comfort workplace.Instead I feel they should have continued her at the first school and what if the so called perverts of upper class abstain from the noon meal facility.
The world is changing,a black from the once highly discriminated community, is the president of USA now?Why don't we change?let there be some actions.

from:  Pallikunnil Divakaran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 13:48 IST

We may think that India is a modern country. But,even after 65 years of freedom, people treat dalit's the way they did the women. It cannot be seen in cities, i accept. but, It is not hard to find discrimination in TN's villages. you'll be surprised to find that the discrimination takes place conspicuously. TN government should look into this issue immediately and take firm action. We talk about people being mistreated in srilanka, what about TN?. We do it on daily basis. we're are such a hypocrites. I'm ashamed to have born in this country with people like this.

from:  sundarraj
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 13:43 IST

I really wish godmen like srisri (instead of visiting pakistan and offering to talk peace with taliban etc.) and periyavar of singeri and other mutts etc. go and teach these people that such thoughts are now a thing of the past and we should all come together under the oneness of modern hinduism...........we really need to send out strong signals of equality among all hindus else it wont be long when we find our numbers have dwindled drastically and we will be at the mercy of others!!

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 13:16 IST

This is the situation in south Indian states! In Kerala, matrimonial
sites are enough to show how people think based on caste! Kerala, the
once socially progressive state, has now slipped into the hands of
retards who thinks, eats, speaks and sleeps based on caste. People tend
to discriminate others and this sadistic pleasure keeps them alive(or
make them feel that they are worth living).

from:  Lal
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 13:00 IST

Where is Dr. Ramadoss and his son Dr. Anbumani. As leaders of this same Vanniyar caste, what do they have to say about such atrocities being commited by their caste, eh? It will be the rightest of things if these two honourable gentlemen can organise a feast cooked by the Dalit lady Mrs. Sundaravanitha and partake of the same themselves.

Our Tamilnadu politicians point fingers at the Brahmins for caste issues. But in reality, it is they themselves who are to blame for the caste problems of Dalits. The Brahmins in the meantime have sought their green pastures elsewhere and are thriving on their own!

Wake up Dalits - don't blame Brahmins. It is those so-called middle castes politicians who have kept you suppressed all this while.

from:  Monty
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:53 IST

We need one more Periyar for this century.

from:  Prabagar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:50 IST

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation waged a peaceful warm to remove
Untouchability, and the present news will send shock waves to many in our
Land. We should not try to divide people on caste considerations in this backdrop
And all sections of society should present a united front , showing respect to the
Father of our great nation. The political parties and social activists should now
Work together to remove all obstacles as detailed in the present story, and if that
Is not done, we will be failing in our commitments to the MAHATMA.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:44 IST

Great!! Wonder would Dr.Ramadoss & Anbumani Ramadoss have to say on this

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:43 IST

What a terrible mentality of the locals ! Is this twenty first century?
The govt must immediately close the school and ask the villagers to fend
for themselves in providing education for their children. The words of
the Dalit woman "I feel like dying" very aptly describes the humiliation
and the mental agony.

from:  chandrasekaran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:23 IST

"People are ashamed to permit their children to have the food cooked by a Dalit." It's really difficult for me to understand of how people are still boasting about the civilized India with these type of thinkings?

from:  Pranshu Gupta
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:17 IST

Thank you hindu.

from:  sunil
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:10 IST

Thats why i admire ambedkar ji, he was a icon and changed the living of so many social deprived people,i have to vote he is next to Bhagat sing,Subash chander bose much ahed of mahatma gandhi and nehru.may his soul rest in peace..

from:  Sunil
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 11:05 IST

It is a shame that even after 65years of Independence we have this untouchability. Now Dr.Ramdoss should enter into this issue and solve it. If he is really not casteist then he should make Vanniyars understand and treat all others as human beings. Govt of Tamilnadu should immediately use SC/ST atrocity act and book them under suitable section with maximum punishment. Unless severe punishment is given nobody will treat them as human beings. Is it possible for the same people to check whether cooks in th big hotels are not dalits? Why do they(Vanniyars) eat in hotels/restaurents? The air we breathe every time were used by many dalits, animals etc. Water is not free from the same. Can these people ask only Vanniyar blood when someone in their family is in dire need of blood? Are they ready to ask only Vanniyar Doctor to treat them even if any one in their family has heart attack? Govt should educate them. All political parties instead of thinking on votes should start thinking as a human

from:  M.Gnana sekaran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:42 IST

This is the reason why Britishers used to call us "Barbarians" unable to recognize a human being as human being but look through the mirror of caste...Shame on our part....this doesn't happen anywhere else in the world...we want to be treated well in other countries like Australia, UK..on par with their citizens...but discriminate our own people in our own country....really disheartening

from:  Syam Suhasini
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:41 IST

Well, if the students don't want to eat, they should just starve
themselves or ask their non-Dalit parents to send them lunch boxes.
It's really sad that in this age of technology and progress we still
linger in our minds on beliefs that have no scientific or even moral

from:  Johny
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:38 IST

It is hard to believe that literacy level is so high in south states ,
the casteism is still prevalent on high level. No use of such literacy
which cannot make people 'educated'. And low caste people are still not
aware of their rights.It is really pathetic that such foolishness still
prevails in society and we dream of making India a superpower.

from:  Vidhi
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:21 IST

What a shame! Do they deserve school in their village? Will they boycot Dalit teacher also? Such people should be punished without mercy by the law enforcement agencies.

from:  Rajendran
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:16 IST

Such incidents justify the reservation that the government gives. which inturn is depriving people of so called upper caste from availing oppurtunity.

from:  Abhilash
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 10:15 IST

Castes which have gotten away with reservation benefits meant for Dalits
are now illtreating Dalits in all possible ways. Brahmins are no mroe
the whipping boys of dalit illteatment. Those parties which have
talked long back about caste elimination are now perpetuating it with
attitudes such as this. Such parties should be boycotted by the people
by voting them out. These parties pose danger to Indian democracy.

from:  s.subramanyan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 09:24 IST

Will someone pl tell the so called upper classes that this is the 21 century.They should be more concerned about the quality of the food being cooked rather than the caste or tribe of the person cooking it.

from:  Manoj
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:55 IST

Shame on us, the people of Tamil Nadu! We claim to be one of the more
developed and progressive States in India?! Such a narrow-minded and
casteist outlook will keep us backward for a long time to come. It is
2012! High time that we become blind to caste and accept all human
beings as equal.

from:  Sundararajan S. Gopalan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:51 IST

Tamil Nadu I believe have high literacy (more than 80%). This is what high literacy is all about. What use such an education that does not modernise you culturally?

from:  Vasant Shinde
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:47 IST

What a sick society we are! At least one Dalit woman is standing up for this injustice.
And the "educated middle-class" Indian keeps saying: " India is shining and we are
emerging as a superpower"

from:  P.N.Shreeniwas
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:18 IST

All along, the political parties like the DK and the DMK were alleging
that the Brahmins were intolerant and that they were perpetuating the
caste discrimination. This unfortunate incident which illustrates the
extreme prejudice of the "vanniyars" against the "dalits" is a clear
eye-opener to the ground reality.

I wouldn't be surprised if the parties supporting these castes come
together to fight the elections for their own petty gains!!

from:  Badri
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:14 IST

It is quite unfortunate. I thank The Hindu to bring these issues. We are living in 21st century and have the dream of a develop India and i am not sure that with this sort of mentality by some people,we can reach that very sson. May be we can become developled in terms of economic aspect but what abovt the civilized society. Peope should leave their religion or caste whatever to their houses when they go out of their housese and should behave first like a human.

from:  Fishan Ur Rehman
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:12 IST

In the era of modernity in India (starting from british period)
when brahmins went for westernisation(adopting western values and
practices),today's caste hindus(castes below brahmins) went for
sanskritisation,that is adopting values and practices of brahmins
.One of such practice in sanskritisation is rule of commensality
that is who shall accept food from whom.This is practiced to
maintain the highness of their caste in comparison with lower
caste. It is now painful to see such things are practised in
schools itself ,because it is the place where fine tuning of human
behaviour takes place.If the minds our young generation are
polluted with these practices then there is no doubt there can be
no end to caste.

Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:05 IST

This is sickening. What is wrong with these caste Hindus that they still continue to subject their fellow human beings to such pain and inhumanity? I am ashamed to call myself a Hindu when there is so much discrimination and bigotry being perpetrated under the name of the religion. Are there any Hindu organizations who have the courage and decency to stand up and fight the caste menace, and for the rights of these people? More than a hundred years ago Vivekananda declared, "Caste is the greatest dividing factor and the root of Maya; all caste either on the principle of birth or of merit is bondage." But, caste discrimination and bondage continues to persist and plague us. It pains me to say this, but Hinduism has to reform or it has to die.

from:  Arulmozhi
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 08:03 IST

It is really sad to see this happening. I cannot understand why we, Hindus, cannot
treat our own sisters and brothers with equality and dignity. I long to see the day
when all of our people are accepted without any discrimination as Swami
Vivekananda, Narayana Guru and others have preached.

from:  Prasad
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 07:39 IST

Issues like these should be tackled with utmost priority by Jayalalitha rather than going after people who play football.

from:  CK Raju
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 07:33 IST

These kind of actvities bring BAD name to hinduism and the result is that these people convert to other religions like islam and Christianity and then the problem that started with Untouchability turns into ethnic clash. Very Sad. The spiritual leaders should interfere and teach such people the concept of Sanatan Dharma which treats every living entity as part and parcel of God. So everyone should be respected and loved. We should learn from history and should improve ourselves.

from:  Naveen
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 07:29 IST

Is it not ridiculous? How about the rice, wheat, grains vegetables?
Do they know who produces them? Actually in these places any
electrician / plumber / mason or grocery chop owner etc should stop
providing these guys any services. Of course, two wrongs do not make
a right; but this could be another way to drive some common sense in
these guys' heads.

from:  RGKrishnan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 06:27 IST

By making the children boycott the food cooked by a dalit woman in a
school , are we not sowing the seed of discrimination in our children's
mind? Are we not teaching them the first lesson of hatred and
unconstitutional behavior on whatever baseless ground may be there in
parents mind. We worship Lord Rama who ate the fruits offered by
Shabari, a shudra woman, but can we say that this act of Rama was wrong.

from:  Dinesh Kumar
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 06:23 IST

I so wish Ms Jayalalithaa would pay attention to these pressing issues
rather than go after the Sri Lankans, who are being wrongly hounded
for their government's actions.
It is hypocrisy to weep for some unknown person's suffering when you
perpetrate this heinous crime of untouchability against people in your
own backyard.Anyways, it is a well known fact that we Indians are the worst racists in the world and hypocrites of the first order: makes me sick.

from:  S Vaidyanathan
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 06:07 IST

The Vanniyars leadership of PMK, with Dr. Anbumani, his wife and his father, Ayya,
should all go to the school and eat the food cooked by the Dalit woman. This would
show leadership in what we believe. If they don't, it shows caste based party with no

from:  raja manickam
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 05:25 IST

Sad, truly sad that India is still in the dark ages ..., and I see my
relatives treating people like that.

from:  radha vyas
Posted on: Sep 4, 2012 at 05:06 IST
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