Valmikis are barred from the services of local barbers by the Thakurs and Brahmins of Fatehpur Shamsoi village.
Representational Image. Photo credit: Chronic writer
Dalits from Sambhal district of UP have threatened to convert to Islam. They have warned that if atrocities against them continued they will abandon Hinduism and become Muslims.
Why are the Dalits from Sambhal so agitated? The reason is simple: Barbers in Fatehpur Shamsoi village are prohibited from extending their hair-cutting or shaving service to Dalits. The village is dominated by over 15,000 Thakurs and Brahmins while the Dalit population is around one thousand. Ever since Independence the Valmikis from the village are barred from availing the services of local barbers.
The Thakurs and Brahmins are of the view that since barbers use the same razors and scissors for all, the use of these instruments for Dalits renders them “impure”. Even today, the Valmikis from the village have to trudge 15-20 kms to Chandausi, Bhajoi or Islamnagar for their haircuts or for shaving of beards and trimming of moustaches.
When a Muslim barber agreed to offer his services to Dalits he was threatened by the upper castes. Fearful of the consequences, the barber backed out.
A month ago three Valmiki youth had had their haircut from a Muslim barber, Asif Ali. When they returned to Asif Ali for a shave, the latter was bashed up by the Thakurs. The Valmikis complained to the police but by the time the police arrived the barbers had shut their shops and fled the village.
Dalits from Sambhal are extremely agitated over this state of affairs. It is for this reason that they have threatened to change their religion. The president of the Valmiki Dharm Samaj, Lalla Babu Dravid has warned that if this ban was not lifted, Valmikis will desert Hinduism and turn to Islam.
Last Monday, Dravid along with a few other activists from the community went to Fatehpur Shamsoi and called a meeting of the village panchayat. The former sarpanch of the village, Sanjeev Sharma and the SHO, Ranjan Sharma were present.
At the meeting, Dravid warned that unless the Thakurs and Brahmins of the village lifted their ban concerning barbers within 24 hours, the Valmikis will leave Hinduism and become Muslims. The onus is now on the Thakurs and Brahmins of the village.
The upper castes have become emboldened ever since BJP’s Yogi Adityanath has become chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Atrocities against Dalits have been on the rise with the encouragement of rightwing Hindu extremists. The administration is perceived as doing little to call a halt to the atrocities. Because of this, the Valmikis have been provoked into talking of converting to Islam.