Dalits up against society and nature | Pakistan Today

Dalits up against society and nature

This year’s monsoon has not only washed away standing crops, schools and government buildings, and displaced over 5.5 million people in lower Sindh; but it has also broken all the dreams of Sakina Jogi, who had left her native village and managed to get her daughter Rani admission to one of the schools.
Sakina’s small gypsy colony of Lakhano Jogi Goth was washed away due to last year’s flood. Her daughter got admission to a school and a non-governmental organisation (NGO) built some huts for them near the Jati Chowk area in Gul Muhammad Baran union council, Jati taluka, Thatta district.
The floodwater was standing in Sakina’s native village and she was hoping that the water would recede, but this year’s monsoon caused breaches in the local drains and her village was inundated again.
The school where her daughter was admitted has been completely inundated and now she is unsure that the government would restore the school so her daughter could get admission to the same school again.
Sakina – a traditional snake charmer gypsy and a member of the “scheduled caste” or “lower caste” community of Hindus – went through a lot of trouble to get her daughter admission to the school because of her social status since members of the Dalit community are not allowed to get admission to schools.
After long negotiations, Sakina managed admission of Rani to a government school in a nearby village, which was completely inundated with floodwater caused by the rain-swollen drains in Thatta.
Sindh is the hub of the Dalits or the “Children of God” who are a majority within the religious minority of Pakistani Hindus, and most of them are living in lower Sindh.
Though some of the Dalit communities, like the Meghwars and some Bheels, who are educated and employed in the public sector and have leaders, several Dalit communities are illiterate, extremely poor and are not represented by any leader from their community, due to which they face a large number of problems in their everyday life.
The Dalits without any representation include the Sami, Jogi, Machhla, Dalaa, Gola, Shekaari, Kabootra, Barha, Gawaaria, Kolhi, Hadwaal, Rawar (primitive hunters) and Raybaari communities.
These poor souls are not allowed to eat in the pots that usually Muslims use, so in lower Sindh, most hotels and towns keep separate tea cups for these Dalits, and they are called “sonhari cups” or “special cups”.
These Dalits usually use Muslim names for their children so they could be treated as equals, but in vain. They are not even allowed to drink water in the same glass as others, and sometimes are forced to drink water from their hands while someone pours water into them.
In such conditions, the children of these Dalits are not socially accepted, and sometimes are not allowed to get admission to the public sector schools and other educational institutions. All the same, Sakina managed to get her daughter admission to a government school, but nature had something else in store for them and disaster smashed all her dreams.
“What else can I do? I shall pray that these ongoing disasters end and we may return to our native village. So my daughter can get admission to the same school again,” Sakina said.
During last year’s floods, the United Nations Children’s Fund estimated that 2.5 million children had been affected. This year, Save the Children estimated that so far over a million children have been affected by the monsoon in southern Sindh.
In the absence of safe drinking water, these children could suffer from diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and other abdominal diseases. They might not be able to attend school, due to which all the targets set by the international donors, NGOs and the Pakistani government would lose their importance.
Countless parents like Sakina who were unable to get admission of their children to schools due to social status, poverty, or absence of schools or teachers, and somehow managed admission of their children – would have to start their struggles anew.

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