Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Protesting Dalits smear themselves with human excreta
A basic right, taken for granted with no second thoughts for many, is a struggle for the Bhangi community in Savanur. The community members went as far as pouring human excreta over themselves, so that their voices are heard and as a sign of protest against those trying to evict them from their homes.ReasonFor the past 70 years, four families of the Bhangi community, who work as night soil workers, have been living in huts built on land belonging to the Savanur Town Municipal Council (TMC).At a meeting some time ago, the TMC decided to evict the families and build a commercial complex in its place. Ever since, the TMC has employed various devious ways to force the families out of their homes.Starting with an oral directive, the TMC has resorted to cutting water connection to the families, dumping waste in front of their homes, barging into their homes, insulting their women and threatening them.The community members, who are treated as the lowest among the dalits, submitted an appeal to the sub-divisional officer in January against their eviction and have ever since submitted numerous appeals to the government over the past seven months.Finding no sympathisers in the system for their cause, the community members finally resorted to this extreme form of protest on Tuesday.The families submitted an appeal to the Assistant Commissioner on Monday demanding temporary water connection. But they were asked to pay the TMC Rs 2,000 for each connection.Helpless, the community members took out a mock funeral from their homes in Kamala Bangadi to the TMC on Tuesday. At the TMC, three members of the community poured human excreta over themselves and begged for water to clean themselves.Officials apathyAs if this was not heart-wrenching enough, none of the officials at the Town Municipal Council came forward to receive their appeal.A verbal duel ensued between TMC officials and Dalit Sangarsha Samithi activists. TMC Executive Officer H N Bajakkanavar defended the TMC, saying they never tried to evict the Bhangis, but added that TMC would provide houses for them under various housing schemes.He also said only illegal water connections were cut off. However, the DSS pointed out that several illegal water connections in the town were untouched and only those feeding Bhangis were cut off. “This is harassment against a community that is still treated like untouchables,” they said.When no official accepted the appeal from the Bhangis, the latter cleaned the toilets in the TMC premises.They then went to the Revenue Department and submitted their appeal to Tahsildar Prashanth Nalavar.