'No Widows Allowed': Villagers Storm School
A still from movie Water, on widows in India
NEW DELHI: Widows remain on the fringe of society, even now in ‘modern’ India.
A school was stormed by 150 villagers when a widow tried to resume work there after being laid off for 21 months. The villagers forced the teachers and students out and locked the gate of the school, disrupting their study, all because they do not want a widow---in this case just36 years old---to work there and serve midday meals to their children.
Sunita Kuwar got her job of maid in the village school, some 200 km northwest of Patna five years back. Surprisingly it was the villagers who had then helped her get the job. Sunita was asked to stop coming to the school last January when a ruckus was created by the same villagers who , as is their wont, charged her with promiscuity.
Yesterday, after having approached the district administration, she was allowed to resume work at the school when the villagers threatened the school authorities of dire consequences if she was allowed in.
“We will not allow a widow to prepare midday meals for our kids. This is a bad omen," said Shiv Bihari Singh, a Kalyanpur resident. "We fear a repeat of the Gandaman incident in neighbouring Saran district where 23 children died after eating a contaminated meal in 2013," a villager said to The Telegraph that first reported the story..
Other villager informed that Kuwar was married to Daroga Singh some 18 years back, who was a daily wage labourer and had died within three years of their marriage. She is also accused of bringing bad omen thus to whomever she comes in contact with.
Kuwar is still firm in her resolve to fight back and get her job back. “I am being victimised as I am a widow," she told The Telegraph after meeting the DM. "I have to look after my two minor children. I am fighting my battle alone and running from one office to another to get justice for the past 21 months."
In the meanwhile, Kuwar’s job has been given to one Babita Devi of the same village, whose husband Prabhunath said, “I belong to the Kharbar community (extremely backward caste) and my children will die if my wife loses her job.”
This is not an exceptional case where a woman has been prohibited from serving food to children in a school. Barely a month back in Kolur of Karnataka, a dalit woman, Rangamma, too, had to face the same kind of revulsion from the upper castes parents who wouldn’t allow their kids near her and told them not to take any food item from her.