//Dalit villager pays heavy price for water

Dalit villager pays heavy price for water

Friday, June 23, 2006 (Khandwa):

Pradip, a young Dalit man from a remote village in Madhya Pradesh, decided to fight back when upper caste people in his village refused him water.

Instead, the 20-year-old was beaten up and as a result, 250 Dalit families from his Chotiche village have been denied access to water.

Kalabai is a Dalit, but never before has she been so acutely conscious of her status. Her son Pradip has been missing since the incident.

The village gets its water supply from a government tubewell, but upper caste families determine how much water the Dalit families have access to.

"Villagers were not allowing him to take water from the well. So he asked for a little more water and a fight broke out," said Kalabai.

Supply stopped

Following this confrontation, the upper castes have stopped supplying water to the Dalits who are now forced to walk more than five km to the nearest water source.

"The problem cropped up because the pipe of the tubewell was broken by the Dalits," said Jagdish Patel, an upper caste villager.

The local administration claims the issue is not caste clash but a mere dispute.

"The dispute is not between the upper castes and Dalits. Rather it's merely a case of water and we are going to arrest the culprits," said D C Sagar, SP, Khandwa District.

But as Dalits continue to be deprived of water, the only case registered so far is against them for instigating trouble