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Pakaha's Wait For Independent India's Constitution

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

21 June, 2012

Pakaha is a small village; 45 kilometers away from the district headquarter of Deoria in the eastern side of Uttar-Pradesh adjacent to district Gopalganj in Bihar. It falls under Ramnagar Panchayat in the Pathardeva block. The village is situated in about 20 bighas of land and mostly habituated by various Dalit communities such as manual scavengers, Bansfors (bamboo workers). 

In the Bansfor hamlet about 20 families live in abysmally inhuman conditions.  Bansfors are bamboo workers who make baskets and sale it in the market. They are a minority among the Dalits. Actually, most of them were also engaged in sanitation work and therefore untouchables in the village. Their hamlet is surrounded by the feudal caste Hindus who threaten them with dire consequences if they protest for anything. The biggest problem in the Bansfor Basti is it does not have a passage for its people to go out. The upper caste feudal landlords have illegally grabbed all the nearby land and they threaten these people with dire consequences if they come across their way. They are threatened to be thrown away from the place where they are living if they try to resist. The land distributed to them has been occupied by the caste Hindus.

Bansfors do not get any work at the NREGS as others will not allow them to work with. No village people would even venture in their locality. Hunger, malnutrition is widely prevalent in the community as even the government hospitals are not interested to cater them. Hotels and dhabas do not give them tea. The money they procure anything has to be kept on the ground. The shop keepers throw money at them. The barbers do not cut their hair. For the tea, they have brought their own glasses to the dhaba. Unfortunately, not everyone is a Brahmin who is following untouchability here . All castes practice untouchability including the Dalits and OBCs who consider themselves higher than the Bansfors. There are different communities as Baba Saheb Ambedkar referred that it is graded inequality that persist with each caste considering itself above the other and therefore feeling proud of their ancestry.

The government of India has passed right to education bill guaranteeing all children of India for compulsory education but the Bansfor students find it difficult to enter the school. They are mostly kept outside the school and mid day meal is not shared with them as the other students do not eat it. It is found out that there is an absolute caste bias among the teachers exists against the community. None of them encourage them to join school and learn. The teachers do not touch the notebook of the Bansfor children and beat them by throwing the bamboo stick at them. None allow the children to come close. They are not allowed to come near the school kitchen as right from the cook to school teacher scold them if they stand near them.

Lal Pari is about 75 years old. Widow, she has three sons, all landless and homeless. The village Pradhan asks for Rs 200/- bribe for making a ration card.  Lal Pari said that the funds came for her Indira Awas but the pradhan has not given her money for the same. There are other women like Chanmati, Mangri and Chinta who do not have home to live and yet the government does nothing for them. They do not even possess ration card which could get them subsidized food. None of the Bansfor gets work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which again guarantees each villager for a minimum of 100 days employment in a year. The complaints against the village Pradhan for taking bribe are enormous. The irony here is that people pay money too and gets abused also. How is a society where a person pays the same amount of money to buy product or tea and yet face humiliation? Where do such a society exists which humiliate a community but does not feel shame when the question of grabbing money comes.

Suresh Bansfod makes basket at his hut which does not fetch even One hundred rupees in day. Last night he hurt on his face himself while cutting a bamboo cane. He needed immediate medical attention. He went to the local doctor who just did not treat him under some pretext. The village has a primary Health Centre but its condition like any usual story of such so called hospitals. Is there any law where non treatment of a patience based on his caste is declared as offender and not just his license should be cancelled but he must be prosecuted for criminal offense? Similarly, will we dare to say that if schools and hospitals discriminate against people on caste, color, gender and disability ground the staff must be suspended and prosecuted? Cancelling a license of school or college will not be practical as at the end of the day it would damage the future of the students itself. It is time, our anti discrimination laws be made applicable strongly. There is need to have a human rights centre in every district to see the violation of rights particularly based on the caste, gender and disability.

A proper implementation of our constitutional provisions everywhere will go long way to eradicate age old prejudices. Schools and colleges must have one special class every day on constitution and rights and duties. It is clear that in India we have never taken our civil laws seriously as the country is still being ruled by the horrendous religious laws which violate rights of individuals and discriminate people on the basis of their caste, gender and disability. It is clear that our religious laws violate all the international norms of civility and human rights. How can a society develop if our civil laws are not implemented properly? Baba Saheb Ambedkar had prophetic words when he handed the first copy of the draft constitution to the chairman of the committee Dr Rajendra Prasad.  He said that   O n the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up'.

We feel too proud of democracy suggesting that its ultimately people's voice but Pakaha's Bansfor Basti people have never shook hand with the village pradhan. They cannot even approach him for any work. There is no question of any one visiting them for political work. The idea of equality, liberty and fraternity stand collapsed in Pakaha as the hamlet will be unapproachable once the rains starts as it will become a small island surrounded in the muddied water. Numerous diseases will start and children and old people will face the consequences as doctors would not treat them and teachers won't teach them.

Will this democracy survive if such cases of blatant violation of human rights continuously pour in and our officials treat it as any other story of the day? While continuous efforts must be made to strengthen the communities by engaging them in human rights discussion and politicizing them, it is equally important for our national bodies like National Human Rights Commission to act on such complaints swiftly and take action against the authorities. Unfortunately, in these cases it is difficult to find the exact proof of offense and when the entire power village join hands, it is difficult to resist. Yet, we must resist against such racist practices to make India a truly democratic society. The struggle is much bigger and time has come for an action so that we do not hang our head in shame for being part of a society which is barbaric and uncivilized. 

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com


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