Khitaber Kuthi Story
About 1700 people reside in the Khitaber Kuthi—a village, where most of the villagers belong to Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and minority Muslim backgrounds. The village is located at about 200 metres from the border of India and Bangladesh, with limited infrastructural facilities. For instance, a primary school or a ration shop is located about 2 km away from the village. Most of the roads in the village are not metalled and there are no irrigation facilities provided by the government. The primary occupation of the villagers is agriculture but due to the restrictions imposed by the BSF, their income has reduced to around Rupees 50 thousand per year and most of the farmers have started migrating to other parts of the country in search of jobs. There are approximately 140 acres of cultivable land situated outside the border fencing. The BSF is posted beside the IBBR and controls the ingress and egress of the villagers into their agricultural fields through fencing gates. The BSF have illegally issued a customised ID proof for the villagers of Khitaber Kuthi – 1, which they have to produce in order to go to their own fields. In most of these fencing gates the ID issued by the government of India, like Aadhaar Card and EPIC are not accepted by the border guards of India.

Most of the villagers have been facing severe restrictions to cultivate their own lands and hence incurring grave financial losses. Due to lack of proper irrigation facilities in these areas, the villagers couldn’t cultivate ‘Boro’ crops. Hence the only profitable option to cultivate in these areas are jute and corn. But the BSF personnel attached with 192 Battalion of Jhikri BSF BOP have put an embargo on the cultivation of these two crops in particular stating that the measure is to stop illegal smuggling activities in the border. It was figured that there is a huge difference in the profit margin between cultivating jute and paddy. A farmer earns around Rupees 3300 per acre while farming paddy but can earn up to Rupees 75 thousand per acre while cultivating jute. Their regular expenses as well as daily livelihood depends on this income.

The villagers, after getting to know from the newspaper that jute cultivation season has opened, have made all necessary arrangements like putting chemical fertiliser and preparing the field for jute cultivation. They have invested around Rupees 2000 each for cultivating jute. But as soon as they were about to plant jute seeds in their fields, the BSF personnel stopped them. They stated that jute crops beyond the fencing would boost smuggling activities in the village. Due to such illegitimate restrictions by the BSF, about 65 families are incurring heavy losses in agriculture.
Kirity Roy, Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)

Communal Harmony
Muslim residents of Kursari Panchayat in Doda, Jammu and Kashmir set an example of communal harmony. Theyhelped the people of the Hindu community in carrying huge idols to an ancient temple here. Six idols made of granite weighing 500 kg to 700 kg were procured from Rajasthan to be installed in the recently renovated Shiva temple on top of the mountain at Kursari, three kms from the Bhaderwah-Doda highway. Sensing the difficulty, Sajid Mir, sarpanch of Kursari panchayat not only allocated Rs 4.6 lakh from the capital expenditure budget for road construction, but also asked 150 villagers from his community to help.

Mir said, “This is our culture and these are our values, which we have inherited. That is why we have not fallen prey to the nefarious designs of those who try to divide us on the basis of religion. Today we have again shown that we are all united.” Over four days, people from both communities used machines and ropes to carry the idols to the temple, where they would be installed in a religious ceremony. Mir said, “It is really encouraging to see the response it is getting. Local contingents of the army, companies involved in road construction and civil administration also came forward and extended their full cooperation.”

The Shiv Mandir Committee has also praised him for the cooperation it has received from the Muslim community in completing the work. Temple committee president Ravinder Pradeep said, “It is heartening to see the love and affection of our neighbours, they give us strength. We worked hard over the last four days to manage the transportation of the idols, which at one time seemed an impossible task.” Haji Abdul Gani Mastana (75), a local resident, said, “I am very happy to see this. It is that our youth are beautifully carrying forward the ethos of communal harmony and mutual brotherhood.”
Akash Mishra, Kashmir

The Cook is a Dalit
In a shocking case of caste discrimination, some 147 students at the Shri Sokhda Primary School at Sokhda village in Morbi district of Gujarat have reportedly stopped eating their midday meals, as it is being prepared by a Dalit woman.

According to a report by The Times of India, the ‘boycott’ has been happening since June 16, when Dhara Makwana, a Dalit woman began preparing the midday meals there.

The school has some 153 students, but 147 of them, who belong to OBC communities such as Koli, Bharwad, Thakor and Gadhvi, have now stopped eating the midday meal.

Gopi Makwana, the husband of the cook said some parents told him that they could not allow their children to eat food cooked by a Dalit woman.

He has filed a police complaint after even the school authorities failed to convince the parent to let their children eat the midday meals.

School principal fails to convince parents.

School principal Bindiya Ratnotar said she met with the parents to resolve the situation, but they were adamant.

“They do not want to abandon their casteist thinking. We can teach children not to have casteist attitudes and that all are equal and no one is untouchable. Sadly, we cannot convince their parents”.

While it might sound shocking to many, this is not the first time such blatant discrimination has been reported.

In December 2021, it was reported that upper-caste students boycotted the meal cooked by a Dalit woman in Champavat district of Uttarakhand.

Sunita Devi, a Dalit was appointed bhojanmata, at a government-run secondary school in Jaul village in December 2021.

But some upper caste students refused to eat the midday meals prepared by her and some parents also accused the school of appointing a different person instead of the one originally chosen by them.

Later the school was forced to reinstate Sunita Devi after the intervention of Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

In May this year, it was reported that some upper caste students had once again stopped eating the midday meal prepared by the Dalit cook.

Following this, Champawat District Magistrate Narender Singh Bhandari who met with parents warned them that students who are boycotting the meals could be expelled from the school.
Bobins Abraham


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Vol 55, No. 8, Aug 15 - 21, 2022