A Newly-Opened Barbershop In Kerala Will Be A First To Fight Centuries Of Caste Discrimination
The Chakkiliyan community from the southern state of Kerala, for centuries, have been cutting their own hair.
In the last couple of decades, they began travelling more than 40 kilometres to neighbouring villages for this basic service of getting their hair cut at a parlour. This is because, by virtue of belonging to a scheduled caste, they were not allowed to access the only two barbershops within the Vattavada village that practised caste-based discrimination.
Now, a government-run barbershop has opened this week in the village for the purpose of not excluding any community from consuming the grooming services.
“People belonging to all social segments are visiting the barbershop and no one is abstaining from its services,”
Moreover, the village body has also gone ahead to cancel the license of the two existing barbershops for denying entry to members of the Chakkiliyan community.
“It [discrimination] is based on a 400-year old culture set by Tipu Sultan [18th-century ruler of the kingdom of Mysore in south India]. If a barber was cutting the hair of the king or his ministers, he was prohibited from cutting anyone else’s hair,”
said S Rajendran, the lawmaker who inaugurated the salon.
The social ostracisation of the community was first bought to the lawmaker’s attention three years ago. Therefore, the local administration started the process of launching a government-run community barbershop that would not adhere to any caste-based discrimination.
“We shut down two other barbershops in the area that were resisting the change. I think now the community will not face these issues,”
Even though practising caste-based discrimination is a punishable offence under Article 14 of the Indian constitution, in 2017, there were more than 5,000 offences against Dalits across the country. Many such incidents also go unreported.
The centuries-old caste system based on hierarchies still has prevalent practices in the village despite the law that needs to end.
They have also been barred from places of worship water wells, farms, and community kitchens.
“Children are conditioned from a young age to keep separate glasses or utensils for Dalits. Those who don’t question this practice, end up propagating it,” said Ashok Das, editor of Dalit Dastak, a magazine and YouTube channel covering caste-based oppression and struggles.
In fact, not being able to access basic services like salons, community kitchens, wells, places of worships hinges the quality of the community.
Interventions like a community-supported government salon count as proactive steps in fighting those discriminations. We hope more such steps are taken soon.
Courtesy : mensXP.com