Dalits have always been the disadvantaged community. They are always deprived of their rights and thus for them the right to equality is just a word for them. In a recent incident the Kushinagar-Deoria Mushar (rat catcher) resident are living in constant fear as they have been beaten, their women are mistreated, their ration and Aadhaar card and bank passbooks are seized so that they cannot vote and even not avail the benefits of government schemes.
Mushars are a marginalised community of rat catchers and work as landless farm labourers. There are around one lakh Mushar voters in the Kushinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Political parties used to woo the Mushars, who live in abject poverty, with cash and liquor, the Mushars used to endure violence earlier but now they are raising their voice against suppression and fighting for their rights, he says.
All these were part of pressure tactics to make the Mushars landless labourers who would work without payment on the farms, they claim. The hutments have been razed and villagers forced to stay in makeshift huts, and all this is done by the gram pradhan (village head), they said as per a local news report
The residents have lodged a complaint with the local police. Instead of taking action against the offenders, the police detained half-a-dozen other people at the police station, they claim.
With polling scheduled on Sunday, the area is abuzz with political activities. Candidates, along with their supporters, are campaigning on the highway.
Silence replaces political cacophony as one moves from the highway to the link road leading to the village where the Mushars are holding a meeting.
Chandi Prasad, head of the community, says, “Manoj, husband of the gram pradhan, grabbed our documents. We will not be able to exercise our franchise on Sunday. He threatened us with dire consequences if we lodge a complaint with the district administration officers. The local police are working on the directions of Manoj.”
“The Mushars are landless labourers. We work on agricultural land of the landlord for our livelihood. Wages under the MNREGS have not been distributed, threat of starvation looms large if we do not get immediate relief from the administration,” he said.
They also said that the gram pradhan, in connivance with local officers, embezzled the funds released by the state government under the housing scheme launched by the government in the village and only base of the houses were constructed.
“Before starting the construction work, the gram pradhan got our hutments razed. We are forced to stay in makeshift huts,” says Chotey Lal, a villager.
Another villager Matesari says, “She went to the Central Bank of India to withdraw money from her account for the marriage of her daughter, but the bank manager told her that owing to some technical restrictions, members of the Mushar community cannot withdraw money from their account. I am worried how I will solemnize my daughter’s marriage.”
“We tried to draw the attention of political leaders and candidates to our plight. The candidates assured us assistance. It has been five days, but no one has turned up. They have left us to our destiny. We have decided to oppose the distribution of liquor, cash and gifts before polling. If our grievances are not redressed, the Mushars will boycott polling,” another villager says.
A farmer leader Govardhan Gaur says the state government has launched welfare and development schemes in the Mushar-dominated villages.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath had met a delegation of the Mushar community in Kushinagar and directed officers to expedite development schemes in their villages. Majority of the schemes were pending and Mushars had been denied benefits, he says.
Additional district magistrate, Kushinagar, Krishna Lal Tripathi says, the administration has not received complaints from members of the Mushar community, a team of the district administration will visit Dhuria Bhat village to take stock of the situation.
Action will be taken against the people who have seized the documents of the villagers and are threatening them, he says.