Amidst homage to Ambedkar, untouchability thrives in Solapur villages
Dalits in a some villages in Akkalkot taluka still face acute discrimination and are repeatedly reminded that they will be treated differentlypune Updated: Apr 14, 2018 16:48 IST
Extreme forms of untouchability continue to be practised in various parts of the country even after 70 years of independence and ceaseless references to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s greatness by politicians.
A cluster of villages in Akkalkot taluka of Solapur district, for example, continue to practice untouchability, unmindful of the fact that it has been abolished in the country.
A visit by an HT correspondent to a cluster of villages in Solapur district revealed that Dalit villagers from Nagansur, Tolnur and Navandagi villages in Akkalkot taluka are given food in separate utensils in restaurants. Tea sellers give tea in disposable plastic cups or in separately kept cups to Dalits, while barbers downright refuse to serve Dalits.
Although the younger generation of Dalits has been speaking against such regressive practises, the community elders said that they are used to it and do not want to raise the issue now. While the village elders are mostly small and marginal farmers, some of the youth have studied up to graduation from institutions such as Dayanand College under Solapur University.
Dalit villagers from Nagansur said they are not allowed to enter barber shops because of their caste and have to travel long distances for a haircut.
Prakash Gadgdey, a resident of Nagansur, said it was a matter of shame that his community continued to suffer untouchability in this day and age in Maharashtra. This is the same district from where the great freedom fighter Sane Guruji started his satyagraha to open the gates of the Pandharpur temple of Lord Vithoba to Harijans in 1947. He said he and others like him had raised the issue a number of times in panchayat and police meetings, but there was no resolution of the issue.
“Owners of eateries in the villages keep separate utensils to serve us tea. They mostly serve us in disposable cups. We have to travel around 22 km to Akkalkot for a haircut as the village barbers refuse to cut our hair,” Gadgey said. He was unhappy that his family was preventing him from filing a legal complaint against the prejudice, he said.
Another villager, Balbhim Ghatkamble, said that the untouchability custom continued even though the village sarpanch was a Dalit. “Our sarpanch is also from our community, but he is helpless in curbing the menace. Police officers have conducted many meetings to deliberate on the issue but the discrimination continues,” he said.
The village sarpanch, Prakash Pote, admitted that Dailts like him had been facing a variety of discrimination in the village. “We tried to solve the problem with the help of the administrative officers. The barbers fear a boycott from the majority community and are hence not ready to comply,” he said.
When asked about the situation, Akkalkot police inspector MA Pawar said, “Yes, we had conducted many meetings to solve the issue of discrimination against Dalits. We had even discussed this recently, on April 12, but no one from the Dalit community was ready to lodge a complaint. We therefore cannot do anything legally,” he said.
Shilwanti restaurant owner Rajesh Nilekar refused to discuss the issue of untouchability when asked about the prevalence of the issue in the village. “I am not interested in talking on the subject,” he said. The owner of Basweshwar hotel also refused to answer HT’s questions.
Located 65km from Solapur, Nagansur has a gram panchayat with 17 members. The village of 14,700 people has around 150 Dalit families who face acute discrimination on a daily basis and are repeatedly reminded that they are ‘untouchables’ and will be treated separately.