Dalits have been facing discrimination for generations based on norms that have been held as tradition, but youngsters are now defying them
Long being subjected to discrimination, Dalits, members of a community branded 'lower castes', are barred from taking haircuts in public salons in Muzaffarnagar district of India's northern state Uttar Pradesh .
The norms that have been held as a tradition and followed by generations in Bhoopkheri village, is now facing resistance, especially from the young Dalits.
Eyeing a change, dozens of Dalits held a meeting on Sunday, June 26 and demanded that the bizarre decree be scrapped.
The Dalits have spent their lives in the shadow of discriminatory norms set by the members of the upper caste. They are not allowed to use water from wells meant for the upper caste, sit on cots and have to keep footwear on heads before entering houses of the upper class.
"It has been in force from a very long time in the village. We have been seeing this since childhood. Our hair and our ancestors' hair are never cut by barbers of upper communities. We have tried to go to the salons a few times, but they give us excuses. They say that heads of their communities have stopped them from cutting our hair or they don't have time", said a local, Harish Kumar, adding, "Either we cut our hair at home…if there is an emergency, we get our haircut at home itself."
District Magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, Dinesh Kumar Singh said such acts need to condemned.
"As you (mediaperson) said, I will bring it to the notice of the authorities. And, if any such decree of not working (cutting hairs) for the lower caste people are issued, it should be condemned. We will not let this happen. We will investigate into the matter and take requisite action," said Singh.
Numbering 160 million, Dalits represent 16 per cent of India's population of more than one billion.
Caste discrimination is banned in India and special quotas exist for Dalits in Parliament, state legislatures, village councils, government jobs and educational institutions.