FOR THE last one month, barbers in Sambhal’s Fatehpur Shamshoi village had kept their shops shut. The reason: They were being asked to give haircuts to Valmikis, which had never happened in the past.
On Tuesday, the shops opened and for the first time, six barbers cut the hair of Valmikis in the village. This, after police and local public representatives told the barbers if they have to work, they would have to cut the hair of all villagers without any discrimination on caste lines.
Fatehpur Shamshoi, where around 200 Valmikis reside, has a population of around 1,500 Thakurs and Brahmins each. Some Muslims and members of the barber community, known as Nai, run barber shops in the village. “Earlier, the barbers used to visit every person’s home and give him a haircut. Later, they opened shops in their homes. The Valmikis never asked any barber to cut their hair nor any barber did so,” said Chhotelal Diwakar, local SP leader and husband of village pradhan Kamlesh.
Around two months ago, a Muslim, Asif Mahboob, had opened a barber shop and announced that he would cut everyone’s hair. Following this, a group of Valmiki men got haircuts in his shop. Later, Mahboob refused to cut the hair of Valmikis, allegedly under pressure of losing his upper caste customers.
Following this, a local, Viresh Valmiki, lodged a complaint with the police against four barbers, who had allegedly turned him away from their shops. This eventually led all the barbers to shut shop.
A few members of the Valmiki caste also contacted Moradabad-based social activist Lalla Babu Dravid, who visited the village. “I had issued an ultimatum that if the Valmikis were not given haircuts by barbers in the village, they will shun Hinduism. Today, I have come to know that the barbers cut hair of Valmikis. It is progress but we will have to see if this continues,” he said.
“The shops were closed for about a month because involvement of outsiders had caused a problem. We decided to resolve the issue, as it was giving a bad name to the village. About 15 Valmikis got haircuts on Tuesday. The barbers were told that if they are running their shops, they will have to provide service to everyone, who comes to their shops. The barbers have accepted this,” said Diwakar.
Bahjoi police SHO Ranjan Sharma said he was part of a meeting held by villagers on Tuesday. “The barbers agreed to cut hair of members of the Valmiki caste and a few Valmikis even got haircuts. Earlier, we had received a complaint from Viresh and an FIR was registered,” he added.