This is about Hariharapura. The special news is that the Dalits in this village
have picked up the courage to stop ‘Bitti Chakri’ in this village. Bitti chakri is the free caste labor forced upon the Dalits by age told traditions of Hinduism. It includes sweeping the of the streets of the caste village, cleaning of sewage, removing of dead animals in the caste village, announcing of death to near and far relative of the caste persons, digging of graves for the dead among caste people, drumming during village festivals, removing leaves after the caste people eat during marriages and festivals, holding lamps during village processions. As you are aware The Dalit Panchayat Movement in Tumkur has succeeded in removing most of these free labors by Dalits as a caste labor thus bringing indignity to the whole Dalit community. Though the government of India berates that these practices are removed and are of the past, those of us working in the villages know how severe these practices are even after 60 years of independence and it has not spared even people like us. Though REDS and DPM have succeeded it is still prevalent in some recently taken up villages and in those villages where DPM has not stepped in directly.
One such village is Hariharapura in Pavagada Taluk where Dalit Panchayat was started only recently. On 30 November one person belonging to the dominant caste kicked the bucket in this village and the caste people sent word to the Dalits to dig his grave. But unfortunately for them Dalit Panchayat had done its work well there and therefore, the Dalits refused to dig the grave as a caste duty. Something unusual has happened in this village. How can the Dalits dare to refuse to do this free caste labor that is ordained for them by ‘divinity? The caste leaders descended on the Dalit village to first threaten them and when it did not work to mildly force them to do it. But the members of the Dalit Panchayat stood firm and sent word to the Taluk leader of the DPM. The police also got scent of the brewing trouble in the village and came to the village immediately.
The caste people had no other option but to negotiate a deal. They sat with the DP members and their leaders and reasoned out that this is the age old custom of the village. But the Dalit Panchayat members asserted that they are not ready any more to be guided by the caste dictates of the arrogant village lords. They started saying that we lived like brothers and sisters and now you are spoiling the peace of the village.
At this point the Dalit Panchayat members took out their strong weapon of argumentative negotiation. Yes, we do agree that we are brothers and sisters and that we should all live in peace. In that case we shall come for digging the grave of one of your caste persons today. However, since we are all brothers and sisters some of you also should join us in digging the grave. In addition to that you also should give a written promise that some of you will join us in digging grave when one of the Dalits die in the village. This will be a true mark of being brothers and sisters. If you refuse to do so it becomes evident that you only want to treat us as your caste slaves and not as your brothers and sisters.
The argument carried its weight. But the caste fellows were already quite educated. They are not ignorant idiots. Therefore they left the negotiation table and started digging the grave all by themselves without involving the Dalits. AN OBNOXIOUS TRADITION OF THE CASTE FORCES OF HINDUISM has been removed in this village. It is done so easily these days. But many of our Dalit brothers and sisters have shed their blood as a price of Dalit dignity and self esteem in the process of building up their community. The Struggle for dignity and Dalit rights will continue unabated in Tumkur and will also be stepped up in the whole of Karnataka.
Note: Actually according to the rules of the Dalit Panchayat the Dalits are allowed to dig graves for a price of Rs.2000/- per grave. This will become a source of their economic bargaining. However, in this Dalit Panchayat they decided to forego the economic benefits for the sake of their dignity. It will take some more time for them to understand and accept that our physical labor is worth the money that it can bring. That is the way many other Dalit Panchayats have learned their lessons in the past.