Karnataka

Religious leaders’ bid to end mid-day meal boycott over Dalit cook

Basava Murugendra Swami from Chitradurga serving mid-day meals to children of the government school at Kuppegala, near Mysuru, on Monday. Photo: M.A. Sriram

Basava Murugendra Swami from Chitradurga serving mid-day meals to children of the government school at Kuppegala, near Mysuru, on Monday. Photo: M.A. Sriram  

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Progressive religious leaders visited the government school at Kuppegala village, near here, on Monday and served the midday meals along with students in a bid to end the boycott of meals by upper-caste children.

Even as the religious leaders, led by Basava Murugendra Swami, sat alongside the children and ate their meal, the attendance in the school, which had fallen in the last 10 days after a Dalit woman was appointed as a cook, went up to the regular level, reaching 138.

The religious leaders, who had taken permission from the school authorities, arrived at the school just ahead of the time to serve the midday meals. After serving and consuming the food, the seers, including Chikkarudra Swami of Gowli Gurupeetha in Chitradurga and Basavalinga Murthy Swami of Bhavaikya Samsthe in Mysuru, interacted with the children and advised them to live harmoniously with people of all castes and creed.

Later speaking to presspersons, Basava Murugendra Swami said it was unfortunate that a few “narrow-minded individuals were sowing the poisonous seeds of caste differences through the school. It is a crime”. Pointing out that there was no difference in the food prepared by a low-caste or an upper-caste person, the swami hoped their act of eating alongside the children would help drive out untouchability. Village elders, including taluk panchayat members and School Development Monitoring Committee members also ate the midday meal.

Deputy Director of Public Instruction H.R. Basappa said all the children who attended the school on Monday ate the midday meal, which was prepared by the same set of cooks. “So, the issue is resolved,” he said.

President of Karnataka Backward Classes Welfare Forum K.S. Shivaramu, who accompanied the religious leaders, said their visit had helped change the mindset of a section of the people in the village for the good of society.

Meanwhile, leader of the Dalit Jagruti Samiti M.V. Manjunath welcomed the initiative of the religious leaders. “It is a welcome development,” he said. But, he appealed to the district administration to pay attention to the other issues of untouchability plaguing the village. He said it had already been brought to the notice of the Deputy Commissioner that Dalits were not allowed in the two Muzrai Department temples, the community hall, hotels, and hair-cutting salons in the villages. Authorities should intervene in the matter, he said.

Meanwhile, a group of villagers, who gathered outside the school, complained that the district administration had been found wanting in making efforts to resolve the problem of untouchability that prevailed in the village.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 1:49:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/religious-leaders-bid-to-end-midday-meal-boycott-over-dalit-cook/article6674308.ece

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