The lowest of the Hindu castes, these “untouchables” fight for a voice
The Pongue Sweeper Colony, a dense network of one-room shanty houses built from scavenged bamboo, wood, and corrugated metal, sits on what is essentially an oversized ditch between the Dhaka Orthopedic Hospital and the World Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The ground in the slum is wet and stagnant, the homes built on bamboo poles two or three feet off the ground. Often, more than one family lives in a single house, without electricity or sanitation. They share latrines dug into the earth and get their drinking water from a small pipe that winds its way through the reeking debris.
Most of the one hundred and ten families there are “sweepers” – cleaners of the city’s roads and sewer systems. They are Dalits, the lowest of the Hindu castes, for centuries “untouchable.”
N. Sree Ramu, the twenty-eight year old Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh Dalits Human Rights (BDHR) organization, lives here with his wife and three year old daughter. While showing me around he told me that his family and most of the others in the colony have been there since the government of Bangladesh plowed over their old shanty houses and relocated them from another part of the city in 1993 – their fourth relocation since 1979. Continue Reading