Gujarat: Dalit cremation challenges spotlight deep-seated caste struggles beyond life

In another case of dehumanizing treatment, a member of the Valmiki community was denied cremation in his village.
Gujarat: Dalit cremation challenges spotlight deep-seated caste struggles beyond life

Gujarat- The state of Gujarat, considered a model for development due to industries, fares poorly on social indicators. This is attributed to rampant untouchability in rural areas and intense caste scrutiny in urban areas for housing and jobs. In another case of dehumanizing treatment, a member of the Valmiki community was denied cremation in his village.

According to reports, Govindbhai Makwana of Navavas village died suddenly on Monday. When his family took the body to the crematorium, they were denied the funeral site in the village by some villagers. Following this, the kin of the deceased presented a memorandum to the gram panchayat. After no solution was found, the kin reached the office of the tehsildar, raised slogans in support of their demands, and sat on a dharna. After the protests, the tehsildar assured the villagers that a crematorium would be allocated within a month. Subsequently, the villagers cremated the body outside the village, and the matter has subsided.

Denial of Funeral: A Post-life Discrimination

It's essential to remember that this isn't the first time members of the Dalit community have been denied access to a common crematorium for burying their dead. In 2018, the body of a 45-year-old Dalit man was buried under heavy police protection after some members of the so-called upper-caste community in Vav village of Satlasana taluka, Mehsana village, tried to block the funeral procession, claiming that the land en route to the graveyard is private property.

In July 2023, upper-caste villagers and the village sarpanch in Gametha village in Padra taluka of Vadodra district prevented Rajnikant Vankar from burying his father at the common crematorium of the village. According to the FIR lodged, the villagers told Vankar that he couldn't use the cremation ground since he was from a scheduled caste. The village has a separate crematorium for the upper castes and the Dalits. In the FIR, Vankar stated that the crematorium meant for Dalits was swamped with water after the rains, and therefore he had decided to cremate his father 200 meters away.

Gujarat: Dalit cremation challenges spotlight deep-seated caste struggles beyond life
Outcry in Karnataka Village as Dalit Family Forced to Bury Father Roadside, Calls for Separate Burial Ground

In July 2023, Dahol village in Ahmedabad district of Gujarat became the site of confrontation when Dalit villagers were denied cremation inside a burial allotted to their community. Only after police intervention were they able to cremate the deceased. However, the matter did not end here. The next day, Dalits were attacked by a group of Patidar community members.

Speaking to the Mooknayak, Pradip G. More of the Dalit Foundation, an organization working in Gujarat, said, "Last year, there were at least 108 such cases in which our volunteers intervened. In Dahol village of Ahmedabad, Dalit bastis were attacked. We held a meeting there, and fencing work has started around the land allotted to the Dalit community. In Baroda, Dalit community members were attacked despite police protection."

In Karnataka too, a similar incident unfolded recently. In Durgadahalli village in Tumkur district, a distressing incident took place as a Dalit family was compelled to bury their deceased father on the roadside due to the absence of a graveyard for their community in the area. Upon receiving information about the roadside burial, the revenue team promptly arrived at the scene, leading to an immediate plea from the people for allocating land for a separate burial area. The villagers asserted that they were not permitted to perform last rites in the existing village graveyard, thereby demanding a separate cemetery for their community.

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