Laxmi Raut (Dom) and Gita Sahani in front of the uprooted public tap from which they had been prohibited. Photographer: Bhushan Yadav

BIRGUNJ, DEC 12 – In an incident of caste-based discrimination in the district, some Dalit families at Bairiyabirta, Parsa have been prohibited from using the public tap by denouncing them as people from the so called lower castes.

Laxmi Raut, who belongs to the impoverished Dom community traditionally regarded as Dalit s or untouchables, said that he was prevented by people from the so-called upper caste from using the public tap in the locality when he had gone there to drink water on October 25. What is more, saying that using water from the public tap by his community would only “impure” it, villagers uprooted the public tap itself.

Following the incident, a village meeting was called wherein he was ordered to install another tap solely meant for Dalit s.

“We cannot install another tap as we do not have funds for the same,” he said.

Raut said that people participating in the meeting also scolded him for using the public tap and “polluting” it in the process. As a result, he said that his family including some other Dalit s in the village have been forced to drink contaminated water from a local river at present.

“As we are prohibited from using the public tap, we are compelled to collect contaminated drinking water from the local river,” Gita Sahani, another member of the Dom community, said. adding that the majority of villagers have taps installed in their houses.

Sahani said that her younger and elder sons have been taken ill due to consumption of the contaminated water from the river.

Mukhtar Miya, former chairman of Bairiyabirta, said that despite registering a complaint to the police against the heinous caste-based discrimination, no actions have been taken against the guilty and nothing have been taken to install a tap for the Dalit s.

Brahmadev Yadav, former politician in the village, said that a meeting was called in the village following a complaint that a public tap was used by Dalit s.

“There was no history of Dalit s using public tap in the village as villagers still practise rigid caste system,” Yadav said.

Social mobiliser Dharmendra Chaurasiya said that although various government and non-governmental organisations are launching a campaign against caste-based discrimination, the age-old practice still exists in inner Madhes region.