Beaten for saying 'good morning'

30th March 2001 at 01:00
INDIA: Nirma Rani, a 13-year-old pupil of Kadipur primary, in New Delhi's suburb of Gurgaon, was beaten by her teacher for wishing him "namaste" (good morning). Her "crime"? She belongs to the Harijan community, the untouchables, who cannot have any interaction with upper castes.

The Harijan students in this school have been barred from greeting teachers. When Nirma's father went to the school to protest, he too was beaten up and attacked by three teachers and is now n hospital with three broken ribs and other injuries.

The case has shocked voluntary and community groups who work with schools in and around Delhi to remove caste stigmas. But in reality, many children belonging to the lower castes are made to do menial jobs in school and are seldom taught. Nirma's classmates, many of whom are also untouchables, said that they were made to wash the lunch dishes for the teachers and fetch water for them.

Suchitra Behal

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