Muzzafarnagar (UP): We have read in our history books about the time when our country was plagued by untouchability, when communities considered as untouchables were not allowed to enter public spaces and were socially secluded.
You would think have times changed and all communities are being given the same rights and freedoms enshrined in our constitution.
Believe it or not, there is still a village that follows the ancient tradition of caste based discrimination.
In Bhup Khedi village in Muzaffarnagar, Dalits are not allowed in the same salons where upper-class communities go for their haircuts. In fact, Thakurs of the village have announced a blanket ban, against Dalits from getting salon services from the shops they visit.
Located 80 kms from New Delhi, the Bhup Khedi village in Muzaffarnagar still follows laws made by the Thakurs which deny Dalits their rights.
Barbers in the village have been pressurized by the upper-caste not to provide any salon services to Dalits and have been warned of consequences otherwise.
The Dalits have decided to raise their voice against this injustice and bring an end to this age-old custom. They organised a panchayat to raise their voices against such laws.
"Since childhood we are seeing that our elders cannot get a hair-cut from the barbers in our village neither can we. Whenever we go to any shop the barber either gives excuse of being too busy or says directly that Thakurs have asked us not to cut your hair," said Harish Kumar, a member of the Dalit community.
To get the usual task of getting a haircut, these dalits have to travel to nearby villages and get the job done. No barber in their village agrees to provide them services.
Harish further said, "We have to travel to nearby villages to get a haircut. No one ever raised voice against this injustice or if someone even did, then they were muted by the hooligans. But now we have decided and stand united against this practice. Our panchayat pradhan also supports us. We will break this practice to an end at all cost and get treated with same respect as is mentioned for everyone in our constitution."
But this is not the only problem the victim community faces. They don't even get marriage proposals from outside the village as others think they are too oppressed.
Another Dalit from the village, Ram Phool, said "Neither our elders got a haircut nor did we. Even our children can't get a haircut in the village. We are troubled. We don't even get marriage proposals for our children as others tell us that we live under too much oppression. Thakurs consider you untouchable and have imposed prohibition. Now we want that we also get haircuts in the village itself."
Sheru, a barber, in the village said "When Thakurs pressurized me to not provide any service to Dalits I shut my shop. They threatened to beat me if I did so."
When the media approached Dinesh Kumar Singh, the Muzzafarnagar district magistrate for his comments, he said "I came to knew about this incident from you all and I will conduct an investigation in this regard. If anyone imposes any such order, it's wrong. We will not let this happen. We will investigate and take appropriate action."...