Dalits still face discrimination in village where Ambedkar started satyagraha – India Today


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Not very long ago Dalits in Raigarh district of Maharashtra were ostracized for drawing water from wells reserved for the upper castes. They faced discrimination and violence on a daily basis. Reports suggest that even as late as 2003 anti-Dalit incidents were reported.

Ironically, it was in Mahad (a taluka in Raigarh district) where the architect of the Indian Constitution Bhimrao Ambedkar started his satyagraha in 1927 demanding that Dalits be allowed to use wells and ponds used by upper castes.

In the India of 2019 as the people get ready to exercise their franchise and elect a new government to power, India Today TV visited Mahad and some nearby villages in Mangaon taluka (Raigarh district) to check what has changed over the years.

India Today TV first stopped at Mugvali village. This village has three Dalit households. We saw a water connection nearby and asked if the days of discrimination were over for the families here.

It took more than 30 years for me to see the change here. We faced a lot of difficulties back then. Now water is not an issue for we have the water connection here. But discrimination still exists, says Anjana Mahadev Gaikwad.

When asked she says that none of the upper caste people join them during festivals or any celebrations. They never eat with us or call us over. But it doesn’t affect me. Now I fight and tell them that God has made me like them, she says.

Her two sons Manohar and Sakharam echo her anger. Says the older son Manohar: The mentality hasn’t changed. In their mind they think we are different from them. That feeling will never go away. But we are ready. Whenever the need arises we will fight for our rights.

India Today TV next stopped at HaathkeliBoudhwadi. There are 11 Dalit households in the area. Discrimination over water no longer exists as the village too has a water connection. The elderly people in this village were not willing to talk to us. But the youngsters were more forthcoming.

We talked at length with Aditi and Sakshi who study in the 12th and 10th standard respectively.

Aditi is waiting for her Class 12 exam results and is excited about joining college. No doubt our parents have seen bad times but now things have changed considerably. Our friends generally don’t discriminate. We even eat together and attend their family functions. I would say the thinking has changed 80 per cent, Aditi says.

When we ask when would there be a 100 per cent change she says, I think it will take a lot of time. At the back of their minds they have the distinction. We know the upper caste boys will never marry us. We may join them but they never come to our house functions.

Sakshi, who is a Class 10 student, on the other hand has a clearer solution. She feels it would be fun if a temple and a Boudh vihar (a place where Buddhists pray and meditate) were to be made at the same place.

Our third stop was the Kavilvahal Khurd village. There are around 15 Dalit households here. This village faces huge water crisis. The village wells have dried up and the women are forced to walk 2-3 km in the scorching heat to get water from the nearby areas.

Gautam Krishna a resident says, We are discriminated for being Dalits by the government. If the authorities wanted it then our issues would have been resolved. A water pipeline has not been laid for the past five years.

A girl, on the condition of anonymity, said, What option do we have other than travel in the heat to get water. We can’t afford to buy water from the tankers like others. Yes we aren’t asked to step away from the upper caste households today but are deprived of basic facilities.

Chandrakant Gaikwad, a local activist, says that Dalits still don’t feel they are part of the mainstream. He says that the people need to be made aware that the world has now changed and that such regressive thoughts don’t have any place in the modern world.

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