Monday, September 23, 2002

Chakwara's Dalits face social boycott

Harsha Kumari Singh

Monday, September 23, 2002 (Chakwara, Jaipur district):

Chakwara in Rajasthan's Jaipur district is still tense after Saturday's intra-caste violence. A Dalit sadbhavna rally was prevented by mobs of upper caste men from reaching Chakwara village. After rioting and clashes with the police, seven people have been arrested.

But little has changed for the Dalit community in Chakwara who now live in fear and are still victims of a social and economic boycott.

Now police has to stand guard outside the approximately 20 houses belonging to Chakwara's Bairwa community, who are traditional shoe makers.

After a rally by Dalit activists on Saturday tried to highlight the discrimination being practised against them, there appears to have been a further polarisation between communities.

"We cannot even step outside without police protection. Our lives are threatened. They taunt us and say that we have chased away your friends and now you will have to stay here with us," says Lachma Devi.

Discrimination against the Dalits has been practised for generations in Chakwara. There are separate bathing ghats for the upper castes and Dalits are not allowed inside the village temple.

The Dalits/bairwas here have been facing a social and economic boycott since December last year when a dalit activist from the village used the Ganesh ghat to bathe at the village pond which was reserved only for upper castes.

"They don't till our fields with their tractors, they don't let us work in their fields. They are boycotting us, they don't talk to us and have said anybody else who talks to us will have to pay a fine of eleven hundred rupees," says Sita Ram.

But others in this Jat-dominated village deny that discrimination is being practised against the Bairwas and blame local NGOs for vitiating the atmosphere.

The administration has meanwhile begun meetings to resolve the issue of discrimination - a tough task in a state which records the second highest number of atrocities against Dalits in the country.

Source: NDTV, September 23, 2002

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