The district magistrate of Ballia in Uttar Pradesh apologised on Monday for his remarks about some Dalit leaders who had visited a school after an alleged instance of caste discrimination by students last week. Bhawani Singh Khangarot, an Indian Administrative Service officer, had referred to the “white kurtas, expensive shoes and watches” while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Khangarot had visited the government primary school after a video purportedly showed that upper-caste students sat separately while being served mid-day meals. Speaking to the media later, he said: “When I reached the school, I saw big cars parked on the narrow road. I saw them in white kurtas, wearing expensive shoes and watch, so I guessed they’re politicians.”

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“I asked the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] delegation to accompany me in the inspection, they refused,” he had told reporters. “I requested them to eat with us since a video of that would send a good message to the society. But they denied my request and went away.”

Later a video clip showed Khangarot making similar remarks about BSP zonal coordinator Madan Ram, NDTV reported.

Public apology

In an apology on Twitter, Khangarot said that social media reactions to his remarks had shown him the mirror and he realised he had made a mistake. “It’s true that a person bringing a problem to light deserves due respect from an administrative officer, but it didn’t turn out that day,” he said. “This was my mistake. Talking about somebody’s watch, shoes or car was also childish. I did not realise this then, but now I do.”

Khangarot said that when he reached the school, he saw some persons who were neither students nor parents, and he was not immediately aware of their caste or political affiliation. “It was strange to see them so early at school,” he wrote. “Later when I suggested that we together try to understand the problem by talking to parents and students, they refused. I was even more hurt. It was a bit difficult to stay objective in a matter related to innocent children. It did not seem to me at all that these were people trying to bring up a genuine problem with clean hands and minds.”

“Anyway, it was my mistake to insult them this way,” he wrote further. “May God give me and all of us the strength to behave with equanimity and composure even in adverse situations. I know that a mistake by an incomplete and flawed person like me will not take away your trust in the dignity of the DM’s post.”

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