Staff Correspondent

Udupi: The discrimination against Jayalakshmi Bhovi, a cook in the Zilla Panchayat Higher Primary School at Thombattu village in Udupi district, continues with students refusing to eat meals prepared by her.

Jayalakshmi is a victim of a smear campaign by some vested interests that she is HIV positive. A related report was published in these columns on August 7, 2007. However, medical tests have proved that she is not HIV positive.

Thombattu is a naxal-infested hamlet, 65 km from Udupi, in the Western Ghats. The branding of Ms. Bhovi, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, as HIV positive and the subsequent boycott by the villagers has taken a toll on her family too. Keshav Koteshwara, head of Spoorthi Dhama, an NGO, who has been closely following the case, told The Hindu that only three of the 110 students of the school ate the food prepared by Ms. Bhovi.

Though another NGO, Namma Bhoomi, on the directions of Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj, met the villagers and tried to convince them that it was false propaganda, it was of no use. The Karnataka Janapara Vedike has urged the State Human Rights Commission to take action. Vedike convener Sriram Divana urged the commission to take action against those spreading canards about Ms. Bhovi. “Though I lodged a complaint with the commission, I did not get any reply,” he said.

Superintendent of Police A.S. Rao said that a case had been registered based on the complaint lodged by Ms. Bhovi.

However, the accused had obtained anticipatory bail.