Threat to convert to Islam helps: Barbers in Sambhal give haircuts to Dalits under police protection

Representational image. Photo Credit: Ulli Maier and Nisa Maier

Yesterday Sabrang India had reported that for the past 70 years, under the diktat of the Thakurs and Brahmins, the Valmikis (Dalits) from Fatehpur Shamsoi village in UP’s Sambhal district had been refused a haircut or a shave by the local barbers. The dominant upper castes believed that use of the same scissors and razors for people across castes will make the barbers’ tools of trade impure. When one barber last month offered his services to Valmikis he was bashed up by the Thakurs.

When the Valmikis lodged a complaint of discrimination with the police, the barbers had shut their shops and fled the village.

The Valmiki Dharm Samaj led by Lalla Babu Dravid launched a protest against this injustice and threatened that unless the upper castes took back their prohibition, the Valmikis will convert to Islam and become Muslims.

The conversion threat seems to have yielded immediate results. The administration has now swung into action and directed the Muslim barbers to extend their services to the Valmikis.

For the first time on Tuesday six of the barbers from Fatehpur Shamsoi reopened their shops to give haircuts and to shave Valmikis.

Two months ago, Asif Mehboob had announced that he would offer his services to people from all castes. Following this, a few Valmiki youth had had their haircut at his shop. But Asif had to go back on his words after being beaten up by some Thakurs.

The Valmikis then lodged a complaint with the police that the Muslim barbers were refusing their services out of fear of the Thakurs and Brahmins.

Following reports of the conversion threat published by Sabrang India and a few others, the SHO of Bhajoi, Ranjan Sharma offered police protection to the barbers and asked them not to refuse haircuts and shaves to members of the Valmiki community. The police protection has ensured the Thakurs and Brahmins can no longer dictate terms to the Muslim barbers.

There are around 15,000 Thakurs and Brahmins in Fatehpur Shamsoi village, while the Dalit population is around 2,000. In the past, the Valmikis had to trudge 15-20 kms to other places for a haircut or a shave.



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