Casteist reporting

BY K S Sudeep| IN Media Practice | 23/07/2010
An amazing story on the India Today website seems to think that appointing Dalit cooks in schools is a deliberately divisive move by a state government.
K S SUDEEP marvels at Piyush Srivastava’s interpretation.



Note: The original story on the India Today website which prompted this critique has since been changed, and some of the lines mentioned here have been dropped. 






So those kids were all living happily together. They were friends, caste and class did not matter. And then some "Dalit cooks" came and divided them. 


That is what this report on the India Today website as well as in Mail Today's epaper   tries hard to convince us. Titled "Dalit cooks divide UP schoolkids", the report by Piyush Srivastava explains how the introduction of Dalit cooks in schools led to a "bad situation" in Uttar Pradesh.


"Mid-day meals prepared by Dalit cooks has created such a bad situation in UP that upper caste students are leaving government schools in droves - so far the number is 1,000.." 


The report goes on to give us some glimpse into the history and tells us how BSP had piggybacked on the support of Dalits and Brahmins to come to power in UP and how the Mayawati government failed to live up to its promises.


"..But once there, Mayawati and her party failed to bridge the gap between  the upper castes and the Dalits. Rather than achieving social harmony, it has led to increased casteism as is evident from the fact that the students have been boycotting schools over Dalit cooks…" 


Very funny, but in a very sad way. It is the upper caste and OBC people who refused to eat food that the dalits cooked. And Sri Srivastava concludes that it is the Dalit cooks (and the government that ordered appointment of these Dalit cooks in schools) who are responsible for the "increased casteism". 


Some parts of the report are factually misleading as well. For instance, it says:


" ..this [continuing instances of violence and boycott] has mounted pressure on the BSP which had passed a diktat making it compulsory for every government school to appoint a Dalit cook where there are two vacancies."

It is not that the BSP government had a fancy idea one day and gave a "diktat" of their own to appoint Dalit cooks in the schools. There are Supreme Court orders regarding recruitment of cooks from marginalized communities. However, I think it is a commendable effort on the UP government's side that they went ahead and implemented these orders. One such order says; "In appointment of cooks and helpers, preference shall be given to Dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes." ]


That is not all. The report even swears by Mahatma Gandhi in an all out attempt to ridicule the Mayawati government. 


"..What is worrying is that Mahatma Gandhi's ideals about a classless society seem to have been forgotten.


And this is no isolated incident.

In July 2009, upper caste students in at least 15 villages of Kannauj  had stopped going to government schools. This year, the OBC students, too, joined them when schools reopened after the summer vacation.."

Seriously, who is coming in the way of an "ideal" society? Some poor dalit cooks? Or some people who consider themselves to be "upper-caste" and superior to others and refuse to eat the food cooked by others, more than 60 years past our independence? Or media like India Today and journalists like Piyush Srivastava?



[Thanks to my friend Kuffir for sharing the link to the India Today article on facebook. Thanks to Oommen for pointing out the SC orders regarding appointment of cooks.]






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