‘Who will employ labourer with guard?’ MP urination case victim’s new challenge | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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MP urination incident: ‘Who will employ labourer with a guard?’ Sidhi victim’s new challenge

Oct 25, 2023 04:48 AM IST

This July, a two-year-old video of an inebriated Praveen Shukla -- a representative of BJP MLA from Sidhi-- urinating on Dasmath Rawat went viral.

Sidhi/Satna In a small under-construction house in Kubri village in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district, Dasmath Rawat, a Kol tribal, is siting in the courtyard with a police guard.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan washes the feet of Dashmat Rawat at CM's residence, in Bhopal (ANI)
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan washes the feet of Dashmat Rawat at CM's residence, in Bhopal (ANI)

This July, a two-year-old video of an inebriated Praveen Shukla -- a representative of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Sidhi, Kedarnath Shukla -- urinating on Rawat went viral on social media, sparking national outrage and a sharp backlash from the state government. Shukla was booked under the stringent National Security Act, and Kedarnath was denied a ticket by the BJP for the upcoming 2023 polls. The government also gave Rawat funds to build a concrete house.

But the horrific incident has left marks on Rawat, both psychological and tangible, that have turned his life topsy-turvy. Since July, local Brahmin farmland owners are not willing to employ him, forcing his 15-year-old son to take up menial jobs to run the household.

“Who will employ a labourer with a security guard?” asked Rawat, 42, pointing at the police constable sharing the charpoy with him. The guard was provided to him over apprehensions that he could be attacked by Shukla’s supporters for lodging a police complaint after the video surfaced. “This land of the upper caste community (Brahmins) is the only source of income for me but after this incident, nobody wants to employ me,” he said, pointing at a huge canvas of land a few metres away from his house.

In July, Rawat was called by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to his residence in Bhopal, where the CM cleaned his feet and sought “forgiveness” for a member of his party hurting someone from the tribal community. Rawat claimed that chief minister also promised him a government job. “I have been waiting for a letter. I am ready to do job of the lowest category,” he said.

When contacted about his claim, Sidhi’s district collector Saket Malviya said: “I will look into the matter.”

Tribal politicsThe Kol tribals, who once used to live in forests, are used to discrimination.

Dasmath Rawat’s neighbour, Bankelal Rawat, said they were first forcibly removed from the forest, and now face discrimination from the so-called upper castes in the villages where they live. “After the urination incident, the upper castes are preferring labourers from outside. We all are facing consequences because of the incident,” Bankelal said.

The ruling BJP has been trying to woo the dominant tribal Kol community in the Vindhya region by promoting Shabri Mata, who offered half-eaten berries to Lord Ram during his 14-year exile according to the Ramayana and is considered a goddess by the community. The BJP organised two massive rallies in February and June in the region, and promised to build a mega temple dedicated to Mata Shabri.

In February, Union home minister Amit Shah addressed a rally outlining the programmes of the BJP government to undo the “historic injustice” meted out to the community by the Congress. In June, Chouhan laid the foundation stone for renovation of Kol Garhi Fort associated with the erstwhile Kol tribe rulers of Teonthar Tehsil in Rewa, and allocated land rights to 3,000 Kol tribals members for the construction of their homes.

The 1.1 million strong Kol community holds sway in 15 assembly seats in the Vindhya region. The BJP won 12 of these seats in 2018, and the Congress just three. Across the Vindya belt, the BJP won 24 of the 30 seats on offer and the Congress the remaining six -- the area, therefore, played an important role in preventing a clear majority for the Congress, which ended with 114 seats in the 230-member assembly.

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But the BJP’s plans to retain the Vindhya belt took a hit after the urination video, with the Congress claiming that the incident showed the “real face” of the BJP. Congress working committee member and local MLA, Kamleshwar Patel, and senior leader Ajay Singh, staged a protest for 12 hours at Dashmath’s house demanding that the accused Praveen Shukla’s home be demolished. His house was eventually pulled down on July 5 as part of a new model of instant justice that has swept several states in recent months.

“This incident exposed the thinking of BJP and its leader. They talked a lot about tribal and dalit but the BJP leaders treated them like Dashmath only... The BJP won’t get any support of Kol and other tribal because people realised there is huge difference in the words and working of the party,” said Ajay Singh, who is the Congress candidate from Churhat.

The Congress, which asked Rawat to campaign for the party, has promised to propose special backward tribe status to the Mawasi, Kol and Korku tribes, and a special economic programme for these three tribes. To be sure, Rawat has refused to campaign for any party, saying he does not want to be drawn into any political tussle.

When contacted, the BJP candidate from Sidhi, sitting member of Parliament Riti Pathak, blamed the Congress for the plight of Kol tribals, saying they did not do anything to improve their lives. “We are working hard to give them their rights and uplift them,” she said, adding that the BJP led state government has worked a lot for the community in last 20 years of being in power.

But Kedarnath Shukla, who has won from Sidhi three times, has rebelled against the party and is contesting as an independent. “Injustice has been meted out to be and my community. I had nothing to do with the incident. I will contest to get justice from people,” he said, adding that the Brahmin community is said to be upset with the BJP for demolishing Praveen Shukla’s house.

Discrimination, a way of life Politics aside, the Kol tribals blame both the Congress and the BJP for their backwardness. Bankelal Rawat said all the political parties have failed them. “Both the BJP and Congress give shallow promises and have not done anything to change our lives. We need proper employment and good education,” he said.

About 80 km from Dashmath’s village, in the Kol community village of Chauraha near in Satna district, Maiki Kol and Nageen Kol are seen fetching water from a well that has dead frogs and garbage floating in it. Just 20 metres away is a cleaner well in a temple, but the Kols were not allowed to take water from there.

“We didn’t get water at home under any government scheme, so we are solely dependent on this dirty water,” said Maiki Kol, 53. The 14-year-old Nageen quickly adds that they don’t get clean water as they are “untouchable”.

Temple administrator, Babulal Upadhyaya, who claimed to be a BJP worker, said, “The work of Jal Jeevan mission is going on soon they will get the tap water. The BJP government is trying to improve the lives of Kols along with all other castes but they themselves are not ready to change. They have separated well but they didn’t keep it clean. These poor people are not very good at sanitation.”

He did not comment on why they cannot draw water from the temple well.

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