Report by Akshya Rout, Jajpur
: In the latest caste
-bound controversy in Odisha
‘s Jajpur district
, over a dozen of dalit students
left a government-run upper primary school for good while registering their protest against the removal of dalit cook by the school management.
There were in total 14 Dalit
students of Gahirapala project Upper Primary school
in village Gahirapala under Dasarathapur block and all of them under parental guidance availed school leaving certificate.
The school authorities had removed a dalit cook Janaki Jena from the school, triggering discontentment amongst the dalit students and parents. The dalit cook was replaced by a cook from the upper caste.
The head master
and other teachers
of the school segregated the upper caste and dalit students into two groups to provide mid-day meal in two rows for which many guardians of Dalit children protested against the caste discrimination of the teachers for which they abused many Dalit students and their parents, alleged a local, Narahari Jena.
“Three teachers had been misbehaving us on caste ground. They also segregated us from other upper caste students. Majority of the teachers never touch us and always brand us as ‘untouchability’, said Barsa Jena (11) a 5th class student of the school.
Hrusikesh Jena a guardian of a student also stated that the teachers of the school often abuse dalit students for which many dalit students were not going to the school .
Dalit children were also singled out in school and forced to sweep and mop classrooms and clean bathrooms. Bijaya Jena
studies in Class IV . When asked about untouchability in school, he explains: “Ame Achuta (we are considered ‘untouchable’), we are not allowed to take water from the drinking water from pot in the school. If we touch two teachers by mistake. They think we pollute them”.
“The teachers don’t want to handle our homework books so they are never corrected. I clean urinals and toilets”, said Jena. “I clean toilets in school,” said Samir Jena a bright lad studying in Class V. “Why do you do it?” when he was asked on Monday. He looks puzzled. To him it’s a stupid question. Because the teacher tells me to do it.”
When contacted , Laxman Murmu the headmaster of the school said ” We have been told that 14 Dalit students have left the school and have taking SLCs. I have directed the School Inspector and Welfare Extension Officer (WEO) to conduct an inquiry about the matter. After getting the report , the authority will take proper action against the culprits”.
Laxmidhar Das the district inspector (DI) of school said “the dalit cook was removed as the upper caste students skipped the mid day meal.
Thus we were forced to engage a cook from the upper caste with consultation with school management committee. I visited the school and talked to the dalit parents. We have called upon the dalit parents to send back their wards to the school”.
Expressing concern over the continuation of age old practice of untouchablities, Prafulla Nayak a human right activist and the president of Pragati a social organization said that it was unfortunate that still the practice was prevailing in the villages. He was shocked over the children talking about discrimination of some particular castes.
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