Former sarpanch Badami Bai still waits for the fulfilment of a promise chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made as her ‘brother’ on Rakshabandhan day two years ago.
In 2014, Badami Bai, a Dalit and then head of a Puravas Kalan village in Morena district, was struggling against upper-caste people’s diktats against the opening of a school in the Harijan basti. She staged a dharna in the state capital,forcing authorities to pay attention to her demand.
The agitationist was invited to the CM’s house, where she tied the rakhi on the hand of Chouhan. The CM promised her that she wouldn’t face atrocities on the basis of her caste, but that promise remains unfulfilled.
”When I tied rakhi to the CM, I thought a positive change will come in my village,” Badami Bai told HT. “The problem of caste discrimination should no more exist, but I have not seen a change in my village.”
Her demand was to construct a middle school in Puravas Kalan at a five-acre plot near the Harijan Basti. There was opposition from the upper-caste lobby, leading to a halt in the work on the school. “The CM promises the construction of the school even as the local administration supported the upper-caste lobby. The school was eventually constructed on another piece of land; it does not have sufficient space,” she added.
It’s not just the elder people, even upper-caste children discriminate against their Dalit counterparts, she alleged. “In school, they are not allowed to study properly. The students of our community can’t sit with them,” she added.
Badami said her the CM helped her fulfil another dream: hoist the tricolour flag on Independence Day as a sarpanch of the village. “But untouchability is a major problem here. I want it to end,” she added.
Social activist Jayant Tomar, who helped Badami Bai during her protest, lamented that the ex-sarpanch’s voice has been “suppressed” despite the CM’s intervention. “Last year, when we staged demonstration against the shifting of the school, minister of state Lal Singh Arya promised the construction of a community halll in a five-acre land of the Harijan basti. That is also getting delayed.”
The district administration refuted the ex-sarpanch’s allegation. “I never heard of such an instance of discrimination,” Morena Collector Vinod Kumar Sharma said. “I will look into the matter. Badami Bai is a real fighter.”