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Once upon a time, people from the Musahar community—one of the most marginalised Dalit groups—of this remote hamlet near Varanasi would shudder to sit on a khatiya in front of upper caste men. Today, a man from the same community in the village fought the panchayat elections against a Thakur candidate from the general seat.
"I wanted to prove it to everyone that even I have the capability to take on a fight for the front seat."Ganga, 35-year-old, Belongs to the Musahar community
Ganga is not the only one who is breaking the centuries-old barriers of caste discrimination and fighting for dignity. We found several Dalits like him in eastern Uttar Pradesh who are asserting their rights for representation and aspirations.
Meera Bharti, a young advocate in one of Uttar Pradesh's most backward regions, Chitrakoot, aims to sit in the Parliament in New Delhi.
I always believe political power plays a huge role in progress of a community. And I definitely want to reach the top of the political leadership in this country.Meera Bharti, Advocate, Chitrakoot
After fighting her way out of a child marriage and everyday caste discrimination, she is now an inspiration to several young women in her village, Rakhma Bujurg.
Some miles away in Azamgarh's Palia village, there are some more brave women who dared to take on the Uttar Pradesh police after the latter allegedly demolished their homes over a separate scuffle in July 2021.
Be it fighting for justice or dreaming of a future, independent of caste biases, Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are asserting their hopes in different spheres.
Pawan Chaudhary belongs to the Dom community of Varanasi, traditionally known for working as crematorium workers. Pawan too has spent his childhood at the cremation ghats but now wants his son and daughter to get educated and dream of a "dignified future".
A little away from the ghats of Varanasi, is a village called Shivrampur where a school was built by a Dalit social activist for children of his community, in the name of Dr B R Ambedkar.
"My school used to be beside the village of the upper castes. Often when I would be on the way to school, the members of the Thakur community would humiliate me, stop me and ask me to work in their fields. I couldn't even refuse lest they beat me up. I didn't want our future generations to face such discrimination and oppression. So my friend, who had once won the Panchayat elections, and I, built a school here for the underprivileged," says Shobh Nath, a health and education activist.
So, the crux of the story is, in Eastern UP, the preparation is in full swing. Be it for political leadership or the desire for education. Several Dalits are refusing to bow down to humiliation and demanding a share in politics.
Hindi Script and Narration: Shadab Moizee
Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya & Asmita Nandy
Video Editors: Prashant Chauhan & Vivek Gupta
Copy Editors: Tejas Harad & Padmashree Pande