It is said that there is simply no room for caste discrimination in chief minister Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. But the story is different in some remote villages of the state.
At Dhanwada village of Bavla taluka, just 45 kilometres from the state’s financial capital of Ahmedabad, one can find glaring discrimination among castes, especially bias against dalits. And surprisingly, this is not a discreet affair.
In fact, the writing is on the wall, literally. Untouchability and discrimination by the upper castes are evident from the scribbling on the wall of the bore-well room situated at the entry point of the village. Also, unconstitutional words, the use of which could lead to criminal offence under the atrocities act, are used at random.
According to the writing, the Dhanwada Panchayat has created a water distribution system based on caste. People from the upper caste will have access to water for the first two hours in the morning.
The writing says Rajputs and Patels will get water from 8 am to 10 am. Then, from 10 am to 12 noon, it is the turn of the Bharwads and Vaghris and lastly, Harijans and other untouchables for the next two hours.
The Sarpanch also accepted that they put up the notice on the wall to streamline the distribution of water as the village has different water distribution lines according to castes residing in the areas.
“We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,” said Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of Sarpanch Nimisha Dodia.
According to villagers, though the sarpanch happens to be a woman, the panchayat is actually run by her husband. “We have written the instructions not intentionally but by mistake. We will rectify by erasing it,” Dodia further stated.
The local talati also accepted that it was a wrong step taken by the panchayat. “I am not aware of any such writing for water distribution. The panchayat men might have done it. I will take steps to erase it with immediate effect,” said AM Jadav, the talati of Dhanwada village.
The caste-specific system of separate pipelines is also surprising. The village has four pipelines: one for Rajputs-Patels and the remaining three for other castes. It happened over the years as people belonging to the same caste and community started residing adjacent to each other and became a small ghetto in every village. It led to a spontaneous demarcation of areas namely Rajput Falia, Patel Falia and Dalit Falia.
Such water distribution system can be seen not only in this village but in most villages,” claimed Ramila Parmar, project coordinator of Navsarjan Trust, an NGO.
“We have found in our survey that the Dalit Falia is always situated outside the village or in an isolated area. Sometimes they are not provided ample water or they get it after other castes get their supply. Hence they always have to face water scarcity,” added Parmar.
“Though we have objection to such writings, we have now accepted the situation,” said Balu Rathod, a Dalit girl. Other villagers are also not raising their voice in order to avoid any conflict with the upper castes. “We are not saying anything as it would result in an undue conflict with people of the upper caste. We are getting ample and equal water every day. Hence we have no objection to such writings,” said Indu Rathod.
“We have lodged a complaint with the chief minister via e-mail. We are surprised by such things happening in the constituency of panchayat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama,” said Navsarjan project director Kirit Rathod.