On Monday, for the first time in over five months, food prepared by Radhamma — a Dalit cook at the Government Higher Primary School in Kagganahalli village in Karnataka’s Kolar district — was not rejected by students.
On November 6, The Indian Express had reported that since Radhamma’s appointment in February 2014, 100 students had left the school. The remaining 18 continued on the condition, laid down by their parents, that Radhamma not make the mid-may meal since she is a Dalit.
The report prompted the administration to act, and on Monday, several officials of the Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement were rushed to the school to ensure students eat the food cooked by Radhamma.
“I am shocked, I can’t believe students ate the mid-day meal prepared by me today. Our village head Shankar Reddy, who was responsible for the boycott, also ate the food. Many officials — I don’t know who are they — visited the village in an attempt to resolve the issue. Today, all of them ate, but I don’t know about the future,” Radhamma told The Indian Express.
Among those who visited the village were officials of the department of education and its mid-day meal scheme as well as police officials, including Additional Director General of Police for civil rights enforcement Bhaskar Rao.
“Sara Fathima, superintendent of police at the civil rights cell in Kolar, bought two new sarees and gave it to Radhamma through Reddy as a gesture of goodwill to end discrimination in the village,” said a police officer.
Rao said police had learnt that Reddy was allegedly responsible for discrimination against the cook. He was also accused in a case of alleged atrocity, filed by Dalit youth Nagabhushan, a year ago. “I made sit them together to eat a meal prepared by Radhamma. I ate it, too. Reddy assured me that he will handle the issue and make sure it does happen again. We will hold a meeting with villagers on November 18 to sort out the problems,” Rao said.
“The Karnataka government is not ignoring cases of discrimination in the state. Our quick response to the issue shows that we acted in time. It is also a lesson for other Radhammas in the state. We want to sent a message that somebody will stand them if anything goes wrong,” Rao said.
Nagabhushan said that Rao and the Kolar district Deputy Commissioner had instructed people in the village to make sure all students, who left after Radhamma was appointed as the head cook, return to the school. “The officials have given us a deadline of November 18 to bring back all students. The number of students may rise again at the school,” Nagabhushan said.
Kolar district Deputy Commissioner Dr K V Trilok Chandra also asked the Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) Rajanna to submit a report about the developments at the school. “The DDPI will investigate why parents got their wards transferred from the school to nearby schools,” an official said.
Mulabagal tehsildar Kanta Veeraiah, Kolar SP Dr Ajay Hilory, block education officer Devaraj and deputy director for the mid-day meal scheme Lakshmaiah were also present at the village Monday.