A widow who was barred by local villagers from cooking and serving mid-day meals in a government-run school in February 2014 in Bihar's Gopalganj has been reinstated.
"They accused me of being a woman of easy virtue, an allegation I have always denied. Even my close relatives (husband's brothers) refused to help me," said Sunita Kanwar (36) after her reinstatement.
"We will not allow a widow to prepare mid-day meal for our kids. This is a bad omen," Shiv Bihari Singh, a Kalyanpur resident, was quoted as saying by Telegraph India. "We fear a repeat of the Gandaman incident in neighbouring Saran district where 23 children died after eating a contaminated meal in 2013.
"To spread superstition is an offence and those trying to violate the law would be prosecuted under the relevant sections of the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act," District Magistrate (DM) Rahul Kumar was quoted as telling residents by ABP.
The residents of Kalyanpur village, situated around 150 km from Patna, had shut down the school after Sunita had approached the DM with her complaint on Wednesday.
After she visited the DM, a group 150 stormed the school and locked the gates. The mob shouted slogans against the local administration for allowing her to cook for the government school.
The residents of the village, which is Rajput-dominated, also threatened Sunita.
"She had come to see me after she was removed from the job," mukhiyaRam Deo Paswan said. "I met the then principal of the school, Pushpa Kumari, who expressed helplessness due to mounting public pressure.
"I will never bow to the people who want to ruin my family. I am the daughter-in-law of this village; I will fight for my pride till my last breath," said Sunita after registering her complaint with the DM at his janta darbar (townhall meeting).
The DM then visited the school on Friday with his convoy to counsel the villagers against the notion of considering a widow a "bad omen", and sat on the floor to eat with the students food shew had cooked for the mid-day meal.
"I along with district education officer visited the school today and ate the mid-day meal prepared by the lady for students," he said.
The protest has died down since his visit.
The woman has two children and was paid Rs 1,000 per month for cooking mid-day meals.