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Caste

Police Files Case Against Victim of Caste Discrimination

A senior government scientist in Pune has complained to the police that her cook 'lied about her caste'.

New Delhi: A cook who was forced to “lie about her caste” in order to get a “Brahmins only” job has been charged by the police in Pune with impersonation and other crimes after her employer – a senior government scientist associated with the India Meteorological Department – filed a complaint.

According to Hindustan Times, Medha Vinayak Khole, deputy director general for weather forecasting at the IMD, alleged in her police complaint that the cook, Nirmala Yadav, abused her when she was questioned about her caste.

Khole said in her complaint that she needed a Brahmin to cook food at her house during religious and other occasions. Yadav, who approached Khole in 2016 for the job, had then introduced herself as Nirmala Kulkarni, a senior police official said.

“The complainant had even gone to her house to cross check her claim in 2016. Thereafter, Yadav started going to Khole’s house on such occasions to prepare food,” she added.

A local priest told Khole on Thursday (September 7) that the woman cooking in her house wasn’t a Brahmin, DNA reported. According to the officer, Khole stated that upon knowing about the cook’s “lie”, her “religious sentiments” were hurt.

After this, Khole went to the cook’s house to seek an explanation and found out her real name, the officer added.

A case under sections 419 (cheating by personation), 352 (punishment for assault or criminal force) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code was registered at the Sinhgad police station, the official said.

Open caste discrimination – to the point of announcing it to the world – isn’t new in India. Except when it is practiced against Dalits and adivasis, it is not even treated as illegal or unconstitutional. And though untouchability towards Dalits is illegal, the practice is rampant in many parts of the country with the administration reluctant to act.

In 2013, a residential complex in Bengaluru advertised itself in The Hindu as being for ‘Brahmins only’, with amenities like a “temple complex”, “goshala” and “Ayurvedic hospital”. The bottom of the ad called the complex “An Exclusive Brahmin Community Township”.

Sunil D’Monte, while writing about the ad, said that one of the problems is that such discriminatory practices aren’t outlawed in India. The idea of creating a law that bans discrimination on the basis of place of origin, religion and caste has been brought up several times and demanded by rights groups, but is yet to come into being. In 2014, a committee set up by the Central government also highlighted the need for anti-discrimination laws. “Non-discrimination is a promise made in the Constitution of India… These constitutional promises against discriminatory acts require legislative backing in the form of anti-discrimination laws, and these must be extended to private and non-state spheres as well,” the Amitabh Kundu-headed Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee had said in its report.

The Dr Mahmood-Ur-Rahman Committee appointed by the Maharashtra government also made a similar suggestion: “The Constitution assures non-discrimination but the existing laws do not punish an offender for such behaviour. There are procedural problems with the existing laws and there is a need for the country to bring in an anti-discrimination law for all sections of society.”

At the very least, both activists and government committees have argued, an Equal Opportunities Commission should be set up to deal with grievances like the denial of accommodation or buying rights to minorities in housing societies, as well as employment-related discrimination. While the UPA government had announced before the 2014 elections that this commission would be set up, no progress has been made so far and the NDA government seems to have abandoned the decision.