Khetihar Khan Mazdoor Sangathan

Chittorgarh district lies in the south eastern part of Rajasthan and has a population of over 18 lakhs. 85% of the people live in rural areas, agriculture and mining being the main sources of livelihood. Most of the land is owned by the jats, and the dalits and tribal communities, owing to the insignificant size of their land holdings, are forced to work in mines or on the lands of others often as bonded labour. Feudal attitudes and practices continue to have a strong presence in the region.


Khat Andolan

In many villages in this region, dalits are not allowed to talk loudly or sit outside their houses on a Khat; they can’t enter temples and the women can’t wear slippers while walking in the upper caste areas—these restrictions in place so as not to disturb the hegemony of the privileged castes. In 2006, there was an incident in Achalpura village in which a Rajput beat up the guests of a Meghwal family who ‘dared’ to sit on Khats in their presence. There was another instance around the same time in which a young man was beaten because he sat on a chair in a Jat’s house. When these were brought to the notice of the sangathan, meetings and discussions were held with dalits, Bhils and other tribals from many villages and it was decided that on 15 December, 2006, everyone would gather in Achalpura and sit on Khats all day in the same place where the Meghwals had been beaten up. On the appointed day, 350 khats were arranged for and more than 2000 people participated, their slogan being Azadi hai Saatth par, Aao baithein khat par. This protest sent the message loud and clear to all the upper caste people. There was some retaliation from them in the form of social boycott, withdrawal of jobs (most of the dalits were working as labourers on the lands of the Rajputs and Jats) and demand for immediate repayment of loans. But, these subsided in time. More importantly, the dalits themselves began to believe that they don’t have to bow down quietly to abusive behaviour, they can stand up and fight.


16 km from Bhadesar, in a village called Bhiladi the government was making a road in 2007. While the road was made in such a way that it went around the lands of the jats, when it came to the land of the Bhils, it was said that the road would have to cut across the land. The houses of the Bhil families were destroyed as was the crop that was ready for harvest. The root of the problem lay in the fact that the upper caste villagers were angry that the Bhils who had been bonded labour on their fields till recently had got a very good piece of land after some litigation and hence were freed. There was a violent confrontation between the sangathan people and the villagers. Then a big meeting was planned on the site of the destruction. 10000 people from all over the district attended with tractors and dhols, and the campaign led to the Bhil families getting compensation and the route of the road being reworked.


Narayani is a Bhil woman from Umedpura village who was catapulted into activism in the mid 1990s when she impressed Khemraj with her ability to speak confidently on a microphone in front of a huge crowd. In a community where women never used to speak in public, this was a rarity. Though she was illiterate she gained a good understanding of the law and the legal system when she fought and won a case against her husband who had remarried. She has worked for many years with Prayas and the sangathan in the campaign for water, making and running SHGs, and helping release land usurped from Bhils. She has also been instrumental in getting convictions in rape cases of Bhil women by upper caste men. She is now in charge of 10 villages and is a force to be reckoned with among the people and the local authorities.