Harijan community people, earlier regarded as 'untouchables' or Dalit community are spending their lives in utter misery at New Jummapara area of Rangpur city.
With sorrow, misery and trouble as their daily companion, every Harijan family with six to eight members is huddling in a single, tiny, tattered room inhumanely. They spend their nights by sharing on a Chowki or on the floor or on the verandah. More than 700 Harijan people are living in 105 tiny houses, bitterly called 'shanties', though, it is alleged, by forcibly grabbing the land of the Harijan people, more than 400 local families are living by making houses there.
It is learnt, though such a situation of the Harijan people of Rangpur has been prevailing for ages, no government or public representative has come forward to take any step for the improvement of these neglected people.
The harrowing fact is that there is only one tube well for collecting drinking water and water for everyday use for more than 700 people and that is also out of order for more than a year. Furthermore, there are only two lavatories to use for so many family members. As a result, there is always a long queue for using the lavatories. Women especially face an embarrassing situation while attending nature's call. During the rainy season, the houses are submerged in knee deep water.
According to sources, after the liberation, the then Chairman of Rangpur Municipality Mahtab Khan took the initiative to make Tin shed quarters for the Harijan people of Rangpur. Later, Chairman of Rangpur Municipality, Language veteran Mohammad Afzal took steps to improve the livelihood of Harijan people.
Now, the walls of those houses made more than four-decade ago have developed cracks, tins have rusted and leaked. Conditions of some houses are extremely vulnerable and may collapse at any moment.
Resident of Harijan quarter Kamal son of Sree Mondol informed he along with his wife, two sons and parents live in a single room. Having no space, some of them spent the night on the floor of the verandah.
Dulali Begum, mother of Jibon, head of the quarters informed, eight of their family members live huddling in a single room. Their sufferings for bathroom and water knew no bounds. They collect water from neighbouring sources but they cannot use other people's bathrooms.
Bhola, father of Jibon, informed 80 bighas of land were allocated for Harijan people but those lands have been grabbed by influential local people while several hundred Harijan people are living on nearly two bighas of land only. He said, none of the public representatives is seen to hear and feel their plights. It is learnt; more than 100 young boys and girls of the quarters never bother to attend schools because they need to assist their parents in their work. However, only seven of them attend the school irregularly.
Among the Harijan people, only one boy has passed SSC examination, six to seven of them have read upto class eight.
Laboni (15) and Laxman(17) informed, they have no ability to attend school. They have no money to pay school fees and examination fees, no dress to wear for school. As a result, they assist their parents in their work.
Meanwhile, Haider Ali, a neighbour, admitted that he has been living by building houses on the land of the Harijan people. He said,' We have lost our land in the river and have no place for shelter. We have been living on other's land for a long time.'
Another resident Laboni Begum also informed that they are landless people and she and her family was living on Harijan's land for a long time.
Local Ward Councillor Sekander Ali informed, Rangpur City Corporation has been working to improve the living standard of Harijan people. But, there are illegal land grabbers.
Freedom fighter Akbar Hossain, President of Su-shashoner Jonno Nagorik- SUJON, Rangpur, informed hundreds of families have grabbed the land of the Harijan people and are living there illegally. The shanti like houses made for Harijan people several decades ago are also in a vulnerable condition and those may collapse any time. He demanded to free the Harijan land by evicting the illegal land grabbers and to make planned houses with all civic facilities on the land for the neglected Harijan people.