Vivek Deshpande, Indian Express, April 23, 2007
Sprinkling of cow urine on Dalit students was the last thing anyone should have tried in a district that has become sensitive to caste issues after the killing of a Dalit family in Khairlanji last year. So, when two “upper caste” teachers from a Zilla Parishad (ZP) school in Surewada village, about 8 km from here, committed the crime (inviting the slapping of the Protection of Civil Rights Act) on April 4, they ended up causing old wounds to open.
Dalit community from the village is outraged by the teachers subjecting their sons and daughters to the “Hindu” ritual. The accused, however, say they didn’t do it only to Dalit students. Meanwhile, caste-oriented organisations have pitched in to defend “their” people.
On Friday, delegations of social organisation Chhava and Shiv Sena met Additional Collector N B Wati and told him that the two teachers, Sharad Kaitade and Madhavi Raut, only performed a “routine” ritual and didn’t do anything out of caste motives. Teachers’ organisations have also come to their defence.
Aggrieved Dalit students told The Indian Express that Raut sprinkled urine on them when they were solving the Geography paper on April 4. They said they had been seated together. Kaitade admits to instructing Raut to sprinkle urine to “purify” the surroundings “since he wanted to start on a good note after taking over as headmaster in-charge.”
Raut admits to following the order. “But it is entirely false that I did it to only Dalit students. Actually, I sprinkled it in the air and some droplets might have fallen on the students. But they fell on all students, not only Dalits,” she says and adds, “Don’t we perform Saraswati puja or Ambedkar jayanti or such other functions in schools?”
Kaitade and Raut also cite the fact that of the nine answer-sheets seized by police to be sent to forensic lab for checking cow’s urine that fell on them, six belong to OBC students and three to Dalit students.
Raut defends her secular credentials by telling how she gave a prize of Rs 51 to a Dalit student Harshadeep Sukhdeve for being “neat and clean” from her own pocket. “When former Surewada Sarpanch Rasika Bagde, a Dalit, died a few years ago, all teachers collected money for last rites and I donated rice worth Rs 220,” Raut, teaching at the school since past seven years, says.
Five of the aggrieved Dalit students — Sonali Meshram, Sneha Khobragade, Naina Sukhdeve, Priya Goswami and Mayuri Sukhdeve — admit that the lady teacher didn’t ever harass them because they were Dalits. “But we were offended by the fact that they performed the shanti and suddhikaran (purification) rituals on us,” says Sonali Meshram. “So, about 20 of us told our parents about it.”
Asked if they were segregated and then sprinkled with urine, Sonali said, “They had seated us together.”
(Posted on April 23, 2007)
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