A Dalit village in Bihar is facing upper caste landowners’ ire for demanding a long-awaited road
A frustrating delay of 10 years in implementation of the State government’s Sampark Sadak Yojana (connecting road scheme) compounded by routine caste hatred drove a group of villagers from the Maha Dalit quarters in a Bihar village to block a road there recently.
The village of Daulatpurchandi is located off the Hajipur-Lalganj main road in the tourist district of Vaishali. Resident of its Maha Dalit tola (quarters) took to the road last week in a bid to make the administration hear of their plight. The Maha Dalit quarter has around 500 houses of the Chamar community.
“The process of building the connecting road started 10 years ago, but it has still not being built. Even the land acquisition has been done,” said Ramprasad Ram of Daulatpurchandi.
Without the connecting road, the villagers, who are largely farm labourers, have to pass through the fields of the upper caste landowners. They thus become the target of trenchant caste hatred and abuses.
In fact, incensed over the Dalits’ demands for a pathway, upper caste villagers arrived at the Dalit quarters with a JCB at night and dug a deep, long tunnel-like ditch right outside their homes, thus effectively hampering their movement out of the locality.
“The zamindars came at night. When we asked them why they were digging, they threatened to shoot us. They said how we could stop them from digging on their own land,” said Rajeshwar Ram.
To make matters worse for the residents, Daulatpurchandi is flanked by two villages dominated by upper castes. “The previous night, the neighbouring village cut off the power connection to these quarters. They snapped the wire of the transformer that supplied power to this tola,” said Sudisht Ram.
“My patience has run out. Without a connecting road, it’s so difficult to even go to the shop,” said Gena, a farm labourer.
The administration conceded to a delay in implementing the scheme. “The process started in 2003, but for various reasons, the scheme never saw the light of the day,” said Jitendra Srivastava, Vaishali’s District Magistrate.
“The government has acquired land four months ago and funds have also been allocated. Only the area has to be demarcated on the ground. The issue will get sorted out by July 8,” Mr. Srivastava added.
The administration has filled the ditch, but there is no telling what other pitfalls lie ahead for the Dalits of Daulatpurchandi.