Saturday, September 21, 2002

Caste cauldron on boil

Untouchability has again reared its ugly head in a Rajasthan village. Only this time, the victims have decided to fight for their rights.

Hundreds of Dalits are on their way to Chakwara, 60 km from Jaipur, to bathe in the village pond and offer prayers at the village temple on Saturday-something they are prevented from doing so.

But, the issue threatens to snowball into a confrontation, with the upper castes gathering in thousands to prevent the Dalits. About 7,000 upper caste people have assembled in the village and blocked access to the temple.

Several organisations, including the Centre for Dalit Human Rights, Jaipur, are organising the 'Sadbhavna Yatra' from Chaksu to Chakwara to end the caste-based discrimination. Magsaysay winner Aruna Roy and Swami Agnivesh are slated to join the 'yatra' on Saturday.

The district administration has deployed additional forces and senior administration and police officials are camping in the village to negotiate a settlement. "We have also deployed one company of the Special Task Force. We will see that there is no confrontation between the two sides," IGP (Law & Order) Arvind Jain said.

The Dalits are not allowed to bathe in the pond or enter the temple. In December last year, some of them bathed at the ghat meant for upper castes. This led to a confrontation but timely intervention by the district administration averted an ugly situation.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 21, 2002

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