By her own admission, the luncheons cooked by Phool Jumari Rawat may not always be the tastiest food prepared for school children, but that is not the reason students are refusing to eat the food cooked by this woman. In India, children of the Bibpur Primary and Junior High school near Lucknow have launched a boycott against the school cook because of her food, it is due to the fact Msr. Rawar is a Dalit, a so-called untouchable. As a result, the children claim any food made by her is unclean. Ironically, this year in the state of Uttar Pradesh, a Dalit, Mayawati Kuman, was elected chief minister of the state. The children remain adamant in their refusal to accept any food from an untouchable. A district magistrate, Chandra Bhanu, said the emphasis will now be upon the poor quality of food prepared by Mrs. Rawat as the basis of terminating her employment. One pupil, Shivani Singh Chauhan, commented: “I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some law caste. So, I b ring my own lunch box.”
Ram Kumar, of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights notes although the chief minister is a Dalit, about 80% of the bureaucracy is composed of upper caste Indians. Mrs. Rawat is a widow with three children and earns a few dollars a day as a cook. “I worked as a labourer. If they remove me from here I will accept my fate and will again work as a labourer.” This is a tragic tale of failure on the part of Indian educators to have multicultural programs that focus on issues of their own society in which people confront bigotry and prejudice. The children of this school should be compelled to bring box lunches. If Mrs. Rawat is fired, then India as a nation loses not merely a bad cook, but the right of humans to be respected for their own humanity. Bigotry will most probably triumph in this school. What a sad tale.