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India

Hair sacrifice for dalit rights

Protesters have their heads shaved in protest at broken government promises

Hair sacrifice for dalit rights
People getting their heads tonsured in protest

Hundreds of downtrodden people took to the streets of New Delhi yesterday, with some shaving their heads in a symbolic protest, to demand the government honor pledges made to them three decades ago. Some 500 dalits – former ‘untouchables’ in the old caste system --  from across the country assembled at the Jantar Mantar observatory before trying to march on parliament, but were prevented from doing so by police. Around 50 then had their heads shaved near the Parliament Street police station. “It symbolizes that the government does not have ears to listen as it is dead,” said Dayal Singh from Punjab, who got his head shaved. “According to Hindu belief, a person shaves his head when someone in the family dies,” he added. Rajender Gautam, a lawyer and activist, said the government under Indira Gandhi had promised special funds for the socio-economic development of dalits and tribals. Recognizing the fact that special measures were necessary for these downtrodden groups, a special plan called the scheduled Caste Sub Plan was developed in addition to the Tribal Sub Plan, he said. Under these schemes the government promised that out of every 100 rupees (about US$2) spent by the government, 16 rupees would be spent on dalits and eight on tribal people every year. However, the government since then has failed to keep its promise, said Gautum, one of the rally’s organizers. He said the aim of the protest was to pressure the government into adopting legislation implementing the plans and to demand the government backdate them meaning would be forced to pay out billions of rupees on helping those most in need. Related links: March ends dalit protest      

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