Gujarat Dalits thumb nose at upper castes
Saturday, 16 April 2011
Ahmedabad, April 16: Mahatma Gandhi had used the boycott mantra to
great advantage against the British. Over 60 years after Bapu passed
away, upper castes in the state he was born used it against the
Dalits. But they did not anticipate that the Dalits would counter this
move with another of the Mahatma's teachings — self- reliance. Meet
the people who started their own economy in under three months
SHOWING courage and aptitude in the face of adversity, 15 Dalit
families in Rampar village have set a shining example by setting up
their own economy against all odds.
When the dominant castes, angry over the " untouchables" entering the
village temple for the first time in their lives, ordered boycott of
the 15 families on January 22, little did they realise that the Dalits
would close ranks and fight back unitedly. In the process, the latter
proved that they were not dependent on the higher castes and could
easily survive the pariah handicap.
Less than three months later, the Dalits in Rampar village of Muli
block in Surendranagar have created their own, independent economy and
are marching on in their journey towards self- reliance. The village,
220 km from Ahmedabad and 65 km from Surendranagar district
headquarters, is home to 750 people belonging to 75 families of the
Chualia Koli community, three of the Bharvad community and 14 of the
Devipujak community, all of whom are OBCs. Besides, 15 families of
Kadva Patels also live in the village.
" Caste discrimination and untouchability have been major Parshottam
Chavda Ratan Chavda issues here," social worker Romila Parmar said. "
The upper caste grocers would hand us things from a distance and
sprinkle water on our cash before accepting it," Ratan Chavda said. "
They never treated us like humans, but we put up with it," she added.
But things changed this January when Navsarjan, a pan- Gujarat NGO
working for Dalits, organised a rally in Rampar village.
" On January 22, we symbolically burnt untouchability outside the
village and entered the temple for the first time in our lives.
Earlier, even the thought was taboo," Parshottam Chavda said.
" Though the headman had allowed us permission for entering the
temple, the entire village ganged up to boycott us. They swore in the
name of goddess Meldi ( the village deity) that those crossing the
line would be slapped with a ` 5,000- fine," he said, adding, " They
wouldn't let us travel in their tempos, have flour from the village
mills or buy groceries." The 15 Dalit families were faced with a hard
time, not knowing how to lead a normal daily life.
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