Kupegala (Mysuru): Chief Minister Siddaramaiah did his early schooling here. But it mattered little to the little girl at the Higher Primary School in Kupegala village, 35 km from Mysuru, who refused to eat while other children had their mid-day meal Thursday afternoon, as her best friend had not come to school that day. The girl was a Scheduled Caste and her friend, a Vokkaliga.
For nearly two months now the Vokkaligas from the village have not been sending their children to school because one of the three cooks making the mid-day meal is a Dalit woman. On Thursday, 68 of the school’s 150 students were absent.
What is worse, the School Development Management Committee (SDMC) chairman, Puttaswamy Gowda, himself stopped sending his son to the school and only relented after being pulled up by higher officials.
“Just because a Dalit woman was appointed a cook here, Vokkaliga children are not coming to school anymore,” said a Dalit member of the SDMC, Manjunath, adding, “This is not the only discrimination we face. Dalits are not allowed to enter village temples and after we entered one in September with the help of the police and officials, it was abandoned by the upper castes. We are not served food in hotels, or allowed to use the community hall either.”
Although the social boycott of Dalits is causing tension and police has been deployed in the village to keep peace, neither Mr. Siddaramaiah nor district-in-charge minister V. Srinivas Prasad have bothered to visit it. Villagers say Mr. Siddaramaiah had promised to take action when they met him in Mysuru a month ago, but has done nothing. “He claims he is a backward class leader but doesn’t seem to care for us.
We don’t want our children to continue facing social discrimination,” said a villager, Uchaiah. A meeting was called on Thursday by the Mysuru district administration to sort out the issue, but the Vokkaligas didn’t turn up.