The Ballia district administration in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday ordered an inquiry into a video that purportedly showed caste-based discrimination by schoolchildren while being served mid-day meals.
District Magistrate Bhawani Singh visited the government primary school where the incident allegedly took place, and prima facie rejected the news reports and the video, The Indian Express reported. However, he ordered a detailed probe by a joint magistrate.
Meanwhile, school principal Purushottam Kumar Gupta admitted that upper-caste students sat separately during meals.
“I went to the school with other officials to see what the matter was,” Singh said. “We spoke to all the children and some of the parents. Not one of them said that there is any kind of discrimination. However, I have ordered a detailed probe in which I have instructed the joint magistrate to talk to each of the school students individually so that there is no pressure from anyone. If the allegations come out to be true, we will take action.”
Singh claimed that only 18 of the 42 students were present at the school on Thursday, and none of them were from the upper castes.
Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights sought a report from the district administration, according to the Hindustan Times.
The video, reportedly shot in July, showed two students eating out of plates made of banana leaves, while others used steel plates. An unidentified student told ANI: “Anyone can eat in the plates available in the school, so we bring separate plates from home.”
The principal, Purushottam Gupta, told ANI that the practice prevailed despite school authorities asking students not to do so. “We ask students to sit together and eat but they go separate ways as soon as we leave,” he said. “Maybe they have learnt it from home.”
On Thursday morning, Bahujan Samaj Party chief and former Chief Minister Mayawati had said that the incident was condemnable and sad. “The BSP demands that the state government immediately take strict legal action against the perpetrators of such disgusting racist discrimination so that others get a lesson and such cases do not recur,” she said.
On Friday, Bahujan Samaj Party coordinator Madan Ram claimed that Bhawani Singh “misbehaved” with him and his party colleagues when they were visiting the school to probe alleged caste discrimination, PTI reported.
Ram alleged that the district magistrate passed comments on his vehicle and clothes, and that the administration was trying to brush the matter under the carpet. Singh dismissed these allegations.
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