Saturday, March 4, 2017

Barbers refuse haircut to Dalits

Bangalore, March 2: For Dalits in Karnataka's Manchanabale village, a haircut costs five kilometres.
That's the distance to the nearest town they need to travel for a haircut because the half-dozen-odd barbers in the three salons in this village have refused to entertain them.
The barbers have recently shut the salons and now provide only home service to upper-caste clients.
A Dalit in Manchanabale, in Chikkaballapur district, about 70km from Bangalore, said only a few "upper caste" people in his village were opposed to barbers welcoming Dalits to salons. "But we are up against these powerful upper-caste people with money and influence," said the young man who asked not to be named.
"This is a clear evidence that untouchability is alive even after so many years of our rights being enshrined in our Constitution," said Shantharaju, president of the Karnataka Dalit Welfare Trust. "It's not about travelling five or six kilometres for a haircut. It's about social justice."
Manchanabale has always had a mix of communities, with Dalits accounting for a third of its population. This means people from these 150-odd families are now being forced to travel to Chikkaballapur town, the district headquarters 5km away, for a haircut.
Village salons normally charge between Rs 40 and Rs 50 for a haircut. The rate is higher - around Rs 60-70 - in towns. So, for the Dalits of Manchanabale, it comes to at least Rs 20 more, plus the time, energy and money spent on covering the distance.
Mavalli Shankar, president of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkarvad), said the denial of a basic service like a haircut or a shave had affected hundreds of Dalit men. "We want to know the reason for this boycott that just started all of a sudden."
Shankar, who is in touch with the district administration, said this was not an isolated case of boycott. "Dalits still don't enjoy complete freedom in our own country after so many years since Independence. But we will fight for our rights."
None of the barbers, most of them from the Other Backward Classes, could be reached for their side of the story but the general perception was that their move appeared to have been dictated more by the instinct for survival than caste.
A senior Congress leader, who too requested not to be named, said the party-led government in the state was aware of the matter. "We have instructed our officials to visit the village to find a lasting solution," the leader, who heads one of the party wings, added.
Chikkaballapur deputy commissioner Dipti Kanade told local reporters a peace meeting would be summoned soon to end the boycott.
For Dalits in Karnataka, such discrimination is not new. About a year ago, Dalits of Singaranahalli in Hassan district had to wage a long battle to gain entry to a temple. That was after 30 Dalits from an enclave in the village were refused entry and some of the women fined for daring to enter the temple run by "upper caste" people.
"We will one day win our rights. But it's the run-up to that big day which gives us immense pain," said Shankar, a vocal advocate of civil rights for all.
Shantharaju, of the Dalit Welfare Trust, has called a meeting on March 12 in Mysore to take up the issue and several other instances of untouchability in the state.
"I know we can't eradicate this anti-Dalit sentiment overnight," he said. "But for now, we need to fight to find a solution for our people in Manchanabale."

It is now 70 years since India got her independence and yet this type of behaviour exists. Instead of things improving, it is getting worse. Caste based reservation which was initially imposed for just 10 years has been extended for 7 more decades and now even well off castes like the Jats of Haryana and Patels of Gujarat are asking for reservations.
Although it would seem that these reservations should stop and what some of the BJP/RSS leaders are airing is correct but vote bank politics being such that their leaders are immediately denying it and the opposition jump on the statement  to encash the repercussion on the votes.
However, seeing the above discrimination, it would seem that the reservations should continue.
The result is that India is losing out with its best brains leaving India for the western countries where everyone is treated equally, where only merit counts. The cream of India goes abroad and we are left with the chaff and we are seeing the result in our administration, industry and research.
So, how do we solve a problem like caste?
People should be made to understand that caste was originally designed to differentiate between people having the ratio of Satvik, Rajas and Tamas qualities in their character and NOT BY BIRTH. These qualities are not inherited but can be developed.
The Brahmins, who made the rules in ancient India, changed the caste system so that their children inherited the benefits. Thus, nowadays the son of a Brahmin may be a corporation sweeper or a shoe maker in Bata or run a dry cleaning shop but he would still be a Brahmin. On the other hand, the son of a dalit, by his own effort, without taking the benefit of reservation may become an IAS officer or a priest but he would still be considered a dalit.
If the government wants to improve India, it should educate the people that the caste system is dynamic and one can move up or down according to his/her own calibre and not be saddled down by birth.
But will the government which is more interested in dividing the people on religious basis be interested?
Will Subramanyam Swami and other BJP leaders who say that the Muslims of India were initially Hindus converted by Aurangzeb and want to bring them back as Hindus (Ghar wapasi they call it), take the initiative to untie all the Hindus to make it a casteless society where each person is given the job best suited to his character and not by birth?

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