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Dalit community facing social boycott over water sharing in Haryana

Dalit community members from a Haryana village have knocked the doors of the Supreme Court against the “social boycott” they are facing for over two years due to a dispute with the “dominant” community over drawing water from a hand-pump.


Dalit community facing social boycott over water sharing in Haryana

Highlight


  • On June 15, 2017, a Pandit youth left his can at the only hand pump for filling water. A few Dalit boys put it aside to fill up their utensils. When the Pandit youth returned, an argument ensued and the boys came to blows, creating an upper and lower caste divide, leading to alleged social boycott of the Dalits
  • The SC sought a status report in the matter last week

Bhatla is bitter as is every single person in the village, divided by a debilitating social boycott. The mood in the village is plagued with a nagging fear and beset with a pronounced mistrust that hounds those from the lower and upper caste equally.

However, the Dalits alone are weighed down by the joblessness arising from fields becoming out of bounds, the inconvenience of fending for themselves and the nagging compulsion to carry on.

A clash between Dalit boys and those of the upper castes over filling water from the lone hand pump two years back created a chasm between the two castes. Since then, the two are wary of each other and the blame-game has taken a toll on the social fabric of the village.

“Our youngsters would work as farm labour in the fields of those from the upper castes. Now, they are loaded onto a tractor and go to adjoining villages in search of work. The village barber refuses to cut our hair, the women walk over 10 km to get fodder for our cattle and the shops deny us purchases,” 

rues Randhir, whose brother and son have been rendered jobless since the boycott. Bhatla villagers from the upper castes dismiss the rant of the Dalits, claiming it to be the handiwork of a “few mischievous elements out to make quick money” by publicising a boycott that does not exist.

On the premises of the all-community temple, Raghubir Singh maintains that a lawyer is leading the Dalits astray by convincing them that their alleged plight could earn them big money from the SC-ST commission.


“We have Dalits working in our fields right now, they have contributed to the community lunch to be held at the temple, they come to take water from the only hand pump in our village and their children outnumber our children in the village government school. Where is the boycott? The few families, seven or eight, are using it as a ploy for publicity and money,” claims Raghuvir Singh as Naresh, a Dalit, nods in agreement. However, in the village pocket where the Dalits stay, 60-year-old Karambir laments the forced sale of his agricultural equipment and bulls after he was denied cultivation on a patch of land he had taken on contract from a landlord.

“The clash in June 2017 changed things. I was refused the land and was forced to sell everything at half the price,” he says. Referring to the upper castes as “Dabang”, the Dalits maintain that initially all 400 SC families of the village, including the Dhanaks, Sansis, Dalits and others, had been boycotted. “Then, realising their folly of alienating all lower castes, they decided to boycott just the 150 Dalit families.  Consequently, the other SC groups were pressurised against cooperating with us,” explains Balwan Singh, a Dalit.

In Sunil’s family, his brother has been excluded from the boycott even though the two brothers and their families stay in the same house. “I send my children to a school in the neighbouring Kulana. I am jobless. Life is difficult,” he says.

At the only hand pump where the boys of the Dalits and the Pandits came to blows over taking water, the setting up of a police post has ensured the two castes keep off each other. In the other pockets of the village, they mood is tense and they prefer staying in their respective areas.

“A couple of educated youngsters in our community are not willing to take this boycott lying down. We have been attacked, our houses have been stoned and we dare not venture out after dark because the upper caste villagers are waiting to pounce on us,” explains Bharat Singh. He adds that a former minister played spoilsport in a compromise.

The two warring castes are sticking to their stance of “no talks”. The Dalits believe that the boycott is aimed at forcing them to leave the village. The upper castes are convinced the Dalits are keeping a non-issue alive to “extract money” in the name of being SCs. With the Supreme Court asking for a status report in the matter last week, both are relying on the court to bail them out.

Editors Note- Original source This Story appeared first on THE TRIBUNE news.


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