Tribune News Service
Shimla, December 22
Debarred from entering temples, not allowed to sit with those from upper castes for a meal during weddings or any other functions, sexual advances from upper caste men… These issues, either one or all, found mention in the personal stories shared by Dalit women during the seminar of the All-India Democratic Women Association here last week.
“Having listened to these women, one feels untouchability and harassment of Dalit women is quite common in Himachal, especially in the districts of Shimla, Sirmaur and even Kullu,” said association president Subhashini Ali.
As one by one, women shared personal experiences about untouchability, it became clear that the social evil was well-entrenched even after 75 years of Independence. “There was a temple near our school. As Scheduled Caste children, we were constantly told by the upper caste people to not walk upright while crossing the temple so that our shadow did not fall on the temple,” said a woman from Sirmaur.
“There have been many occasions when upper caste men have looked at me with wrong intentions. One of them even tried to rape me, but I managed to escape. Ironically, I was held responsible for it,” she claimed.
A woman from Theog said they were not allowed to enter the village temples. “We can’t go inside the temples. We have to pay obeisance from the staircase leading to the temple,” she said.
Another woman from Baldeyan near Shimla narrated an incident from her schooldays to highlight the evil of untouchability. “I had a friend who belonged to an upper caste. We would sit together in the school and even share our food. Once we happened to attend a wedding together. She sat down with me to have food, but her parents did not let her sit with me,” she recalled. Even today, Dalits are served food only after upper caste guests have finished eating during a wedding or any other function in many parts of Shimla district.
“Women in general face exploitation. The Dalit women, however, are the worst-affected. The idea of the seminar was to get them to speak about the harassment they face. They will get the courage to fight against it only when they speak about it,” said Subhashini Ali.
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As one by one women shared personal experiences about untouchability, it became clear that the social evil was well-entrenched even after 75 years of Independence.