Monday, April 23, 2007

Teacher sprinkles cow urine to purify students

Staying in cities, we sometimes feel that caste is a thing of the past. We (including me) criticize politicians for perpetuating caste issues, and feel that after so many years of independence, and with rapid economic development, we should leave older era issues of caste behind. However, I saw a news item, and was not sure how many political blogs in India covered this. I didn't see any, so wanted to make sure that people read this.
Don't get me wrong, I want this caste based division to go away as rapidly as possible. Separation of people into different sections based on their birth (and not their abilities) sickens me, and makes me wonder about the people who believe in this.
Read some extracts of this news item.

The ZP school runs classes from first to seventh standard and has 210 students, including 20 Dalit students. Last month, Tilottama Tembhurkar, headmistress of the school, who belongs to a ‘lower’ caste, was transferred but not relieved of her charge. However, teachers from the upper caste believed that Tembhurkar’s presence was inauspicious for the school.
In the last week of March, Tembhurkar handed over charge to senior teacher Sharad Kaitade (an upper caste). In early April, when he formally took over as the school headmaster, Kaitade allegedly performed a puja in the school and asked a lady teacher Madhavi Raut to sprinkle gomutra inside the classes and school premises.
Raut promptly went around the school premises and classes sprinkling cow urine—while the students were appearing for their annual exam. She entered the class where Dalit students were also solving the question paper.
Raut allegedly asked the Dalit students to get up and sprinkled ‘gomutra’ on them, saying it would “purify’’ them.

Reading about this incident, I could not believe it. Such incidents have negative impact on both sections, with an impact on the students against whom this was perpetuated. It is utterly humiliating for them, and is not expected in a temple of learning.
For students to whom this was not targeted, it has an impact in terms of them getting a reinforcement of caste feelings, something that they would be hearing at home; and to hear it at school from a teacher would only give it more sanctity.
The biggest issue in all this is that it was done by a teacher. The incident is reprehensible done by anybody, but to be done by a teacher who first perpetuates the belief that cow urine is a purifier, and then the fact that pruification needed to be done, is extremely shameful. How can we hold up our heads if we keep on doing incidents like these ?
India has specific laws against doing things like this, and we need to make sure that such laws are implemented so that examples are made and people realize that caste based discrimination is just not possible. That will result in true empowerment. What do people think should be done in a situation like this?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:53 AM