Article 17 of the Indian Constitution abolishes untouchability. But for Dalit communities living in many parts of India, this is far from true. Among them is Chandapur village of Yadgiri’s Shahpur taluk, where Dalits are reportedly not even allowed to go too close to the village well, forget drawing water from it.
The discrimination is justified by the caste Hindus in the village with a bizarre story: if the Dalits touched the water used by them, it would invite the wrath of Lord Hanuman.
In an already drought hit area, this ruse is being used by caste Hindus to ration water to the Dalits, while they keep a lion’s share for themselves.
“We have to wait for the upper caste people to give us water. They don’t allow us to go near the well. Once they are done taking water for themselves, they give us a pot or two for each day,” says Kalappa Malage, an agricultural labourer from Chandapur.
And even those two pots are given to them at the convenience of the savarnas. “Sometimes when they get tired of drawing water from the well, we have to wait for them to rest and come back so that we can get our water,” says Kalappa’s wife Dwaraki.
Chandapur has only one well, which acts as the major source of water for the people. Although water connections are present, the taps run dry six out of seven days in a week, according to the villagers.
To add to their woes, the cattle owned by the Dalits are not allowed to go near the pond to drink water and they are not allowed to wash their cattle while members of the upper caste are going about their business.
“For the cattle, they fill water in buckets and our cows drink from it,” Dwaraki explains.
Sadly, the Dalits in the village haven’t complained to anyone because they believe that Hanuman would punish them if they drew water from the well. Many residents believe that this practise is not wrong. They have accepted it as a way of life.
“This is how it has been for so many years. This is how is will be,” Kalappa says.
Shahjahan Praveen, the Sarpanch of Kadechur Panchayat, under which Chandapur is administrated, says that he was not aware of the goings-on in the village.
“We will write to the district administration and ensure that appropriate action is taken. We will also ensure that every resident of the village gets equal access to the water,” he says.