In this village, it's Brahmins who're getting the stick
PUSHKAR: It's another story of caste conflict, but with a twist in the tale. This time, it's the upper caste Brahmins who are at the receiving end of ostracism. Five Garg Brahmin families from Mitharau village in Barmer district three kms from the Indo-Pak border have fled to Pushkar after they were boycotted by the lower-caste Meghwals. And the seven families who have stayed behind are also waiting to get out of the village.
The Meghwal-dominated village _ with 200 families _ boycotted the Brahmins in February, after the death of 25-year-old Motu Ram in Pushkar. Though the police registered the death as a suicide, Motu Ram's uncle and the ex-sarpanch of the village alleged that he had been murdered by his employer Gomu Ram, a Brahmin tailor. A fresh inquiry was ordered.
Says Pushkar SHO Jaipal Singh, ``There's little doubt that it was a clear case of suicide, but these people allege it's a murder though they were not present at the site of crime. It appears to be a case of politics.''
Ghewar Chand (33), one of those who migrated to Pushkar, echoes the view. ``The sarpanch wanted to divide and rule because the Meghwals used to vote for whoever we recommended to them. He wanted to shatter our power over them,'' he says.
The boycotting of the communiy was complete, claim the Brahmins: when they tried to fill water from the village tubewell, the Meghwals smashed their pots, branding them ``impure'', if they grazed their animals on the village pasture land, they were hounded out.
Says another migrant Ghemra Ram, ``We had to walk four kms to a neighbouring village to get our wheat ground. They would encircle us and threaten to kill us.'' The Meghwals also began summoning Garg Brahmins from other villages to perform religious ceremonies.
Sarupa Ram (15), a class 8 student in Mitharau's government secondary school which he was forced out of, says, ``The Meghwal children wouldn't even let us sit on the same `dhurrie'. They called us murderers. The teachers are all Meghwals and they failed all the Brahmin children.''
Five of the families managed to migrate because some of their menfolk were working in Pushkar as tailors. But life hasn't got any easier for them. Their children cannot attend school qs they were unable to collect their transfer certificates in time. Their womenfolk, used to earning Rs 5 a day from Kasida embroidery in the village, remain unemployed in Pushkar. And they are deprived of their main source of income.
Ghewar Chand says, ``This is the time for sowing crops like gowar and bajra, but we have left our land and run away. Earlier we could get enough rations for a year if it rained well. Now we have nothing to fall back on.''
Some of the Brahmins can't help but feel a sense of deja vu. They were re-settled in Mitharau from their original homes in Pakistan, and the Indian government had given each family 50 bighas of land and a house. The village was razed during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, and residents had to be evacuated again during the Kargil war. They have become refugees yet again, this time, refugees of caste.