Dalits in Lhor Village Allege Social Boycott After They Stopped Disposing Animal Carcasses, Gujarat

In a valiant move, Dalits from the Lhor village in Gujarat, decided to stop disposing animal carcasses, citing that it is a filthy and an unpaid job which leads to their discrimination. However, they have alleged that their decision to stop performing such a demeaning work has led to their social boycott by the upper caste people of the village, as called on May 8.

dalit Village
Image Courtesy: Javed Raja / Indian Express

As reported in the Indian Express, Dalits in Lhor decided to stop disposing animal carcasses as part of their “customary” service saying it was a “filthy and unpaid for” job that was thrust upon them. Dalits have alleged that they have been socially boycotted since May 8, after a Dalit groom took out the first wedding procession in Lhor on a horse.

Reportedly, based on a complaint, police have registered an FIR against five upper caste men, including the sarpanch and deputy sarpanch of the village, for ordering the social boycott.

Bhikhabhai Parmar (81), the grandfather of Mehul, after whose wedding procession Dalits allegedly faced a social boycott, said, “We used to do it (dispose carcasses) out of social compulsion and to avoid friction. I have lifted dead animals. When we did the work, the non-Dalits treated us with disgust,” he said.

Mukesh Shrimali, a young dalit, said, “Our old generation used to lift the carcasses of animals and the tradition has continued for hundreds of years. We (the Dalits) were not getting any remuneration for it and the service was imposed on us as a custom for long. They think Dalits have to do it.”

The talati-cum-mantri (revenue clerk) of Lhor, Varsha Thakor said, “During one meeting to strike a compromise (after five men were arrested for the social boycott), one of the major grudges of the non-Dalits was that the Dalits do not lift carcasses of their animals.”
Predictably, Thakors have denied allegations of any link between the social boycott of the Dalits and their refusal to dispose the carcasses. An upper caste villager, Prahlad Thakor, said, “Their (Dalits) refusal to lift dead animals is their choice. Nobody can force them to do it. And as far as the matter of social boycott is concerned, it is not true.”

Notably, at least two Thakor community women indicated that the community does hold a grudge. “They say that we should sit with them and dine together. How can we allow that?” said one woman requesting anonymity. Another woman said, “…we have to lift dead animals or make arrangements to dispose of it. If they (Dalits) don’t do their work, what are we supposed to do?”

Social activist Martin Macwan said Lhor was not the only village in Gujarat where the Dalits have stopped lifting carcasses. “After Una (public flogging of Dalits by self-styled cow vigilantes in 2016), I did a study and discovered that there were around 30 villages in Gujarat where Dalits had stopped lifting the dead animals. It also indicates that the relationship is going to change further. The Dalit youths are clear that they will not compromise in any circumstance.”

Despite touting ourselves as the fastest growing economy in the world, we yet have an unjust and unfair system of caste-based profession. The vulnerable, the marginalized and the powerless continue to be victims of prejudices and discrimination at the hands of the upper-caste powerful people, even to the extent of losing their lives.

Amidst all this, such courageous decisions by the oppressed are much-needed so as to break the age-old stereotypical setup.

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