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Citizens for Justice and Peace

Caste no bar: In this part of Punjab, Dalit cooks are family

02, Jan 2016
#peacemakers #peacemap

The school has students from the Rai Sikh community studying along with upper caste students including from the Jat Sikh community. Their mid-day meals are all cooked by Dalits.
Written by Divya Goyal
Ludhiana Published:Jan 2, 2016, 9:25
In a country where children have been told not to eat food from a Dalit cook and people tie “caste strings” on their wrists as identification marks, a few schools in Punjab are trying to bridge the “gap”.
Just 3 kms from the India-Pakistan border in Fazilka district is the government primary school of Pacca Chishti. Here, Paramjeet Kaur, a Dalit woman who cooks the school’s mid-day meals, tied a raakhi on the wrist of head teacher Manoj Kumar.
“I don’t have a brother. My school is my family. Kumar sir is like a brother to me,” said Kaur.
The school has students from the Rai Sikh community studying along with upper caste students including from the Jat Sikh community. Their mid-day meals are all cooked by Dalits.
“There has not been a single instance where our three cooks- Bachno Bai, Gurmeet Kaur and Paramjeet Kaur- faced any problem. Children lovingly call them aunty ji and we teach them how to respect elders who cook food for them,” said Manoj.
It helps that the children of Gurmeet Kaur also study in the same school. “All teachers, cooks and children eat same food in lunch prepared by our cooks. On Diwali and Lohri, we give gifts to them and they have full right to speak in the matters of school if they have any opinion,” said Manoj.
“Being from extremely poor families, we sometimes need money for medicines or clothes. We get only Rs 1,200 as monthly salary. Then teachers give us money from their own pockets. They have never said no,” said Bachno Bai.

 

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