Saturday, October 09, 2004

'Untouchables' put barbers on razors' edge

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Oct. 8. — Your caste can pose a hindrance to your wanting a hair-cut. A hair raising issue? Well there’s more to it. The Chhatarpur barbers recently found themselves on razors’ edge after they refused the Dalits a hair-cut. On Mahatma’s birth anniversary, an Asprisyata Nivaran Camp (untouchabilitity removal camp) was organised. There was a feast for people of all communities and castes. It was attended by local leaders and the collector to give the equality theme a boost.

While political leaders and bureaucrats might well have taken it as just another function, the Dalits took it seriously. From the next day, they started visiting hotels, public places and shops to know their position in the society. Barbers were perhaps the “first catch” for the Dalits. Wanting to put the equality theory to test, on 3 October dozens of Dalits went to a barber’s shop for a hair-cut. But they were reportedly refused because they were “untouchables”.

Incensed at the behaviour, five out of the humiliated lot reached Bakswaha police station and registered a complaint against the barbers. They demanded the police to register an FIR under provisions of the SC/ ST Act. What followed was a closure of saloons over the next three days. It was only after the collector and SP intervened that the shops reopened from today. Bakswaha police said they had been questioning barbers to ascertain if the complaint should be converted into an FIR and brought under the SC/ ST Act provisions. A police officer said the situation was under control.

Source: The Statesman, October 9, 2004

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