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For long they have been calling me to visit. ‘ We cant carry our traditional occupation as it has not given us anything. We want to educate our children so that they too can get some job’, said one of them. Yes, it was an ocassion for me to listen to the voices of the Bahurupiya community in Rajasthan. Yesterday, I got an opportunity to meet some of the community members in Dausa.

I did not know what was the programe about. One of the community members invited me so I reached there to find that two other persons from Delhi are coming. There were two ‘leaders’ from local ‘ Brahmin Mahasabha’. Once the Delhi ‘patrons’ arrived, the programme started. The woman who came with another woman from Delhi, straight forward picked up the mike and started pontificating. ‘ Your art is dying. Now there is lot of commercial activities but there is lot of money. We will make project for you. You should unite and work with the government. We will talk to the government to give you work particularly like ‘ Beti Bachao campaign, Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’ so that you can develop. Your traditional art must not die’, said the woman from Delhi.

Next was the number of Brahmin Sabha leader and how they would work for the community. He said, ‘ I am saddened to hear that you have to pay to organise your meeting at this place. If if you had informed me earlier, I would have got it free of cost’. We would like the government to make a Bahurupiya Board to protect your art. These days, big artists are getting crores of rupees but you are not being paid even Rs 500/-. We will ask the government to protect your art, said the Brahman Samaj leader.

As the leader finished, the community leaders began welcoming all with flowers and garlanding. The Brahman Samaj leader has got a local TV channel with him. He suggested that these people must immediately give a memorandum to the collector. ‘ I have spoken to the collector, kindly go and submit your memorandum’. Afterwards, he started giving his byte on the ‘channel’ with all the crowd of the community surrounding him as if government is making some announcement.

In this whole exercise of please all, community leaders actually forgot that I too had come from Delhi specifically to meet them and it is they who had invited me. There were some people in the public who were unhappy with the contents gone so far. They felt that the issues of the community has not yet come and were disappointed. Shamshad, the person who had invited me was not in picture and roaming around Sharmaji. Suddenly, his father who knew me and felt disturbed as my not being able to speak, called me to speak. Please come, listen , we have an important guest from Delhi to speak, he said.

As people came back to normal, I said many issues of the community have not come up here. I have no issue if some people want to help you make some ‘project’ but community development is not project. It is much bigger. I asked, how many in your community work in any of the government services ? Not a single, they said in unison.

How many of you have your own land ? I asked again.

Not a single, came the voice.

Do you know why are you insulted, I asked ?

It is the caste, the jaati, which you are born in. The Muslims do not consider you Muslim and the Hindus never want you to be called a Hindu. They dont mix up with you. Dont give you water to drink and you make a mockery of yourself to make their egos massaged and I am sad, none of these issues were spoken, I said.

The art that they want to preserve is does not give you enough money to make two times meal.

I have no issues with community developing art or cultural organisations and getting government support but can it be at the cost of community’s self respect. A community, which has illiteracy rate above the national average, which is thoroughly landless, jobless and without any representation at any level is a completely dis-empowered community and need government protection and help apart from its own measures.

I asked this question to people. Why shouldn’t there be DM, SP, teachers, Darogas, even peons from the community. Why should the community just be engaged in their traditional occupation which is nothing but insulting on its own. How can you call it an art which humiliate you just to keep the feudal lords entertaining.

The Savarnas have got 10% reservation, I said. They used to mock reservation. No this government says that a Savarna person earning Rs 8,00,000 is a ‘poor’ but it is not ready to give the Bahurupiyas any reservation who are absolutely whether you take economic criteria or caste criteria, poor both socially as well as economically.

I told the community that they will be at the mercy of others if they do not mobilise and assert politically. We raise a slogan in Uttar Pradesh. ‘Jiska Mudda Uskee ladai, jiski ladaai uski aguwaai’. The issue of the community is to raise themselves and the leadership must emerge from the struggling communities. You can not have ‘vote hamara raj tumhara’ system any longer now. We must ask representation of the community on every possible place. Why shouldnt they have space in jobs, in Panchayats if not in Vidhan Sabha or Lok Sabha.

And as I spoke ‘reservation’, the Dilliwaalah petrons got highly upset.The local ‘patrkar’ was taking interview. The women said, ‘reservation’ will not help. We are kalakars, artists and we are respected through our art. We must work with the government and all our issues will be resolved.

I was just smiling. I played my role. ‘ How can reservation is ‘political’ and ‘bad’ when I spoke for Bahuripyas and why it is a ‘great’ ideas when announced for the Savarnas ? Community was happy at least someone got ignited. They came and talked to me. My message was clear. Why should not you seek your right. You be an artists but even artists are made members of Parliament, nominated but remember art too has jaati. The same art performed by Brahmins make them internationally visible but not you.

Several of these artists have traveled abroad and performed internationally but back home in their village, they are isolated marginalised both socially and economically and it is so because they do not have a ‘Sharma’ name behind them.

We hope our friends in Rajasthan will fight for the rights of this community. Provide back up to the community so that they stand up on their own. They can do wonders but they need to first have a feel that they are equal citizens. And humiliating your own self to massage the egos of the feudal Rajputs and Brahmins is not art but begging. It must change. Their talent must be used in mass awakening of Bahujan communities which they can definitely do if theater people take interest in them. Why should Bahurupiyas promote brahmanical values which insulted them ? Bahuripyas must get benefit of government schemes. Old people must get government pension. They must be honorably rehabilitated and their children must get quality education and youth must get jobs while community must also get representation at political level to raise their own issues and not through some patrons.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: vbrawat@gmail.com