Dalit children recount horrific tales of discrimination

Aged between 8 and 14, these children tore Nitish Kumar’s Government to shreds when one after another they recounted their horrific tales.

One such student was 13-year-old Poonam Kumari from Gaya, who recalled how five youths from her village forced her to disrobe at a secluded place, and then took turns to rape her.

Tears continued to roll down her cheeks as she narrated her experience before a select gathering, which included SC/ST Welfare Minister in Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi.  

Her woes did not end there. She had to undergo a medical examination, and after her charges were found to be true, an FIR was lodged at the concerned police station. But since the culprits enjoy enormous clout, they continue to roam around freely and, at times, even pass lewd comments on Poonam whenever they come face to face with her.

But then Poonam was not alone. Fourteen-year-old Radha had come all the way from Barachatti, where she studies in Kasturba Gandhi Madhya Vidyalaya. One day she complained to her teacher about stomachache. But lo and behold, the teacher locked her up in the toilet for six hours.

The teacher said that since she was shamming, she needed to be taught a lesson. Radha would have remained locked up in the dingy and unhygienic bathroom had one of her class-mates not informed her father, who came rushing to the school and forced the teacher to let her go.

There were more stories of discrimination in store. Bina Kumari of Gaighat narrated in detail how the toilet in her school was out of bounds for the Dalit girls. “Only upper caste girls are allowed to make use of the toilet,” said Bina. “Besides, Dalit students are served their mid-day meals in leaf plates while upper caste students are provided food in proper plates by the Rajkiya Madhya Vidyalaya,” she added.

It’s not only the mid-day meal where the discrimination is rampant. The Dalit children face prejudices even if they apply for a school-leaving certificate. “Upper caste students have to pay just Rs 40 for a school-leaving certificate, while Dalit students like us are made to cough up Rs 100 for the same,” said Satnarian Paswan of Darbhanga.

The tales of bias come close on the heels of Nitish Kumar’s government announcing dwelling units and land for Mahadalits where they can build their dwelling units. Apart from this, the Government has also decided to organise a Transistor Mela, on the lines of Pustak Mela (book fair), Rojgar Mela (employment fair) and Loan Mela.

This fair will be held exclusively for the Mahadalits of the State, where companies manufacturing radios will distribute transistor sets to the identified beneficiaries belonging to the oppressed class, so that they can receive information about the various welfare schemes meant for them.

Conceding that the transistor sets have not reached the beneficiaries, Nitish said, “I admit that the transistor sets have not reached you as my officers are wary that the amount (given to Mahadalits for its purchase) would instead be spent on alcohol. So I have decided that henceforth Transistor Melas would be organised. In this fair, transistor set companies will distribute the sets to the identified beneficiaries after receiving coupons from them.”

“The coupons, of course, will be made available to the beneficiaries by the government, which, in turn, will pay the amount to the companies,” Nitish added. But for many beneficiaries these coupons have also proved to be elusive so far.  

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