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Musahars break silence, get aggressive

Leaders with a host of promises landed here but none of them carried a message for the impoverished community.

india Updated: May 03, 2007 05:38 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron

For the Musahars (they ate rats to satiate their hunger, hence the name), May Day went by like any other day. And on Wednesday, 17 helicopters carrying leaders with a host of promises landed here but none of them carried a message for the impoverished community.

In remote Nichlaul village in Maharajganj district, this community, boycotted — even by the Dalits — is ready to fight its own battle. In a one-on-one with their candidate, they not only spoke about their plight but also listed their demands.

“As it is poll time, the BSP, Congress and CPI (ML) candidates came while the SP sent a representative,” says Sameer Pandey, a member of the voluntary organisation Musahar Vikas Pahal, set up for the community.

But the Musahars — experts in the art of making pattals or leaf plates — are the least bit interested in meeting the candidates. “This happens every election. These leaders come to ask for votes but nothing is done for us,” quips Inhari who can barely manage a meal a day. Like Inhari, Pyaari also sees the politicians’ attempts to woo voters as a futile act. Her priority is to marry off her two grown-up daughters.

Prakash says: “We are landless labourers, traditionally engaged in selling pattals. We have to pay forest officials a fee to pluck leaves from their reserved areas,” he says. A labourer gets 5 kilograms of wheat and a jug of jaggery for a day’s work, or is paid Rs 25 for a man and Rs 20 for a woman — a fee so meagre that they cannot afford to send their children to school. Often, when the infants howl with hunger, mothers push their hands inside rodent burrows in the fields to take out grains and sometimes end up dying of snakebite.

Despite politicians exploiting this small community, 80 adults will march to the poll booths on May 8. Of late, though, there have been signs of political awakening among them. “For the first time, Musahars, known for their silence, are getting aggressive. They have threatened to boycott the polls in Sohiburma village. Their slogan is ‘note nahin to vote nahin’,” says Pandey.

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