Post office is out of bounds to us, say Dalits

Dalits forced to transact from outside
‘If we try to enter the post office, they block the door'
RESTRICTED ENTRY:The building to the right houses the post office at Gumpoli of Melanthabettu in Belthangady taluk where Dalits allegedly are not allowed to enter. 

BELTHANGADY (Dakshina Kannada):

Seventy five-year-old Bailu has never set foot in the post office in her village in Betlhangady taluk for fear of being thrown out. Dalits of Melanthabettu village, located about 6 km from Belthangady, say they are denied entry into the post office and are forced to carry out transactions from outside. Elderly Dalits of the village are forced to wait outside the office for their pension, often in the hot sun. “They will come outside and give us the money, or give it to someone else who hands it over to us,” said Sunanda (name changed).

The post office is located in the Gumpoli area of Melanthabettu in a separate building on the residential premises of the postmaster.

When The Hindu visited the post office, Mutti, 75, was there to collect her pension. She had to squat outside for several minutes in the sun before she was told to collect the money. Similarly, Sunanda and her friend Priya, who had to buy inland letters, waited outside.

“I don't know about the older generation, but we are a little educated. We feel bad when we are made to wait outside while others are let in. We (Dalits) and people from the other castes believe in the same bhootas and gods,” Sunanda said. “We don't want this practice to continue,” Priya added.

Dalits form nearly half the population in the village, said Somappa, an autorickshaw driver and member of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkarvada). “If we try to enter the post office, they block the door,” he said. Postmaster G. Ravindra denied the allegation that such treatment was meted out to Dalits in the area.

“It [the post office] is a part of our house. There is no separate room. In villages, it [post office] is in the house itself. We let them inside up to a point, but the rest of it is our house. We can't let everyone inside our house,” he said. However, the Dalits said that for the past three years the post office had been functioning in a separate building a few metres away from the house.

Convener of the taluk unit of the DSS (A) Sanjeeva said when such discrimination prevailed in an office of the Union Government, one could imagine the plight of Dalits in the rest of the country. He said the DSS condemned the practice.


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