Dalits of Karnataka's Hulikal travel 8 km for a haircut

Dalits of Hulikal village in Arkalgud taluk travel about eight kilometres to get a shave or a haircut. Not that there are no barbers in the village; even those who offer on-call services refuse to come to their homes.

“Dalits have to travel to Arkalgud or Konanur to get a shave or a haircut, both places being about 8 km from the village. We younger people can go, but it is difficult for the old,” said Pratap, a Dalit youth at Ambedkar Colony in the village.

The Dalit youth have now resolved to get a barber from a different area to run a salon in the village as no barber of the village is ready to break the custom that restricts them from offering services to Dalits.

Mallesh, a barber in the village, told The Hindu he was not personally against offering services to the Dalits. “I have no place to set up a salon. Moreover, even if someone opens a salon, there is no guarantee of business as a section of villagers would oppose entry of Dalits,” he said. His son Hemanth, also a barber, works in a shop at Arkalgud, which allows entry to all.

Hulikal, with a population of around 3,000, has about 150 Dalit families. “Around 20 years ago, a barber was forced to close his shop as the ‘upper castes’ refused to give him business if he entertained Dalits,” said Hulikal Rajashekar, a retired teacher and a Dalit activist. Recently, he submitted a memorandum to Hulikal Gram Panchayat requesting the allotment of a shop in the village. The panchayat has six commercial sheds and one of them could be allotted for a barber shop, he requested.

He recalled that earlier the Dalits were not allowed entry into the Venkata Ramana Temple in the village. They fought against the restriction, suffered social boycott, and finally succeeded in entering the temple. “With the help of the law, we have succeeded to get access to public places in the village. However, so far we have not been able to have a barber shop. If the panchayat fails to fulfil our demand, we will stage a protest by opening a shop right at the Panchayat Development Officer’s chamber,” said Mr. Rajashekar.

V. Naveen Kumar, PDO, told The Hindu that he had received the application. He was making efforts to find a place suitable to run the barber shop. “I have brought the issue to the notice of senior officers. We are making efforts to resolve it,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2022 6:09:57 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/the-long-road-to-a-haircut-for-dalits/article28129271.ece