Dalits win as upper cast bows down in Navrabera

The Pioneer, 29th Sept. 2000
http://www.dailypioneer.com/secon2.asp?cat=\state3&d=States
Narayan Bareth/Jaipur

After a battle against social discrimination, dalits of tiny Navrabera village, in Barmer district, won their case in village panchyat.

The upper caste villagers apologised for their deeds in the presence of 200 peoples and police officials. Earlier, Hindu and Muslim castiest from the village had decided that none of the shopkeepers would sell provisions to dalits. However, tribal Bheel students of Balera Government School had made same complaint that they were not allowed to take water from common pitcher.

A compromise has been reached between upper caste people and dalits in the village on Wednesday as upper caste people apologised for their deeds in village panchayat, though the dalits demanded a written apology.

According to Unnati, an NGO which has been fighting against discrimination of dalits, they only want to abolish such inhuman practices. More than 200 villagers were present in the panchayat.

The Navrabera case had evoked much response from various quarters and it had forced castiest elements and administration to initiate a compromise. Earlier on September 21, the influential castiests in Hindus and Muslims had decided to teach dalits a lesson. The upper caste people took a decision that none of the shopkeepers in the village would sell any essential commodities of daily use to the dalits of Navrabera.

Ganpatlal, heading an NGO - IDEA - in Balotra subdivision, under which the village comes told The Pioneer that there are five provision stores in the village and all are run by upper caste people. The upper caste panchayat, Ganpatlal said, decided that anyone violating the decision would have to pay Rs 1,005.

"This is a widely applied formulae in western Rajasthan to further their plights and make them succumb to pressure," said Ganpatlal who himself is a dalit. According to Sujeet Sarkar from Unnati, people from poor dalit community since September 21 evening had to travel 18 km to Patodi to buy provisions. Two days back, dalits from eight nearby villages of Navrabera, assembled at Dalit Resource and Information Centre (DRIC) in Balotra town to discuss further course of action. The dalits there decided to submit a memorandum to SDM and Dy SP for action against upper caste people involved in osctrization of dalits.

"We had mentioned name of shopkeepers in the memorandum and given two days time for action," said Ganpatlal. Even the dalits decided to start their own provision store in the village and fight the cast till justice, said Ganpatlal.

Yadram, Dy SP told The Pioneer that he had received a memorandum from dalit community and if found facts true, the police would take action. Smelling trouble around them, the upper caste people realised the gravity of the situation and approached for a compromise.

This is the first time in western Rajasthan that dalits raised the issue of untouchability and won the case.

Navrabera is not an isolated case of discrimination with oppressed dalits. In same Barmer district, dalit students of Balera Government School had submitted a memorandum to the District Collector saying they were forced to not share drinking water from the pitcher which had been used by upper caste.

The Scheduled Tribe Bheel community children, numbering 15, from Balera school jointly signed the memorandum and came to Barmer 20 days back. According to sources, there were two pitchers in the school-one for bheels or dalits and another one for upper caste. When the case of Navrabera got space in media, school management removed one pitcher or matka. Now there is one pitcher for all the students.

Bheels, all belonging to village Junapatra, only 20 km from district headquarters of Barmer, had raised the discrimination issue first time. These children used to travel five km on foot everyday to reach Balera and attend school. Late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had visited the village.


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