While barbers continue to be discriminated against by the dominant communities in villages, it appears they can’t even retire in peace.
Octogenarian barber Chidambaram, who decided to bid goodbye to his vocation three years ago, is now bitterly fighting a battle for livelihood rights in his native Chinnalapatti village near Madurai as upset village elders have ostracised him and his extended family.
Three years ago Chidambaram had given up his vocation due to old age. When villagers summoned him to shave the hair of those who perform last rites he had refused citing his old age. He also turned down their demand to send his son-in-law to perform the task of tonsuring.
“Since then village president Karthik Raja and others have been harassing me and my family. After we were ostracised, the villagers have refused essential commodities to us for the past three years. They even denied milk to my six-month-old granddaughter,” Chidambaram lamented while staging a fast in Madurai on Tuesday to highlight his plight. CPI leader R Nallakannu and Hair Dressers’ Association president N Maran expressed solidarity with him and participated in the protest.
Chidambaram had served the villagers as a hairdresser for 60 years and regularly tonsured their heads whenever they performed last rites. “After I refused to oblige them, some villagers razed our house and began harassing my daughters. They would tease them and penalise those who supported us,” he said.
His son-in-law Neethimaran alleged he was beaten up when he had visited the village. Chidambaram said police failed to take action on his complaint about the incident.