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In Pictures: The 'rat eaters' of India
Musahar community in Bihar's Darbhanga district still live in extreme poverty and face social stigma.
Last updated: 01 May 2014 08:50
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Darbhanga, Bihar - Far away from the high-decibel political campaigns in India’s parliamentary elections, a group of semi-naked children frantically search for something to eat in the marshland of their village in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

These children belong to the Musahar community ("Musahar" meaning "rat eaters" in Bhojpuri), a socially marginalised community placed at the bottom rung of India's hierarchical caste system.

About 250 families from the community have been living in Kubaul village in Darbhanga district for the past 150 years.

 

"Earlier our meals were dependant on the availability of rats and grains that we would procure from the rat holes," Malhu Sada, 74, a member of the community, told Al Jazeera. "However, things are changing for some families as their children have gone to different states to work. We now catch rats mostly during the harvesting season."

The state government has accorded them Maha Dalit status, which makes them eligible for various government schemes that have failed to lift the community out of poverty and backwardness.

Narayan Ji Choudhary, founder of Mithila Gram Vikas Parishad (MGVP), an NGO that works for the welfare of the community, said: "The condition of Musahars is the worst of the lot. Some of the lower caste communities work as bamboo artisans, cobblers or cleaners, but Musahars are unskilled labourers. This is the reason that they are the lowest rung in the caste hierarchy even in the scheduled castes."

Residents of Kubaul village have decided to boycott the current elections for being discriminated against.

"All the neighbouring villages have electricity with all the basic amenities, but we still live in such inhuman conditions. There aren’t any schools and the nearest school is 2km away," Kusum Lal, 72, said.

"Children have to cross a river to reach school and the river is full throughout the season. During the rainy season, our village gets cut off from everything as we don’t even have a road to reach our village. Our demand is 'road nahi, toh vote nahi' (No road, no vote)," he added.

The community found in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are landless and don’t have their own livestock. While some manage to buy food, most still have to procure food every day, which involves scrounging whatever they can such as small fish, snails and even cockroaches.


/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera
Men, women and children of Musahar community catch small fish and snails in a wetland near their village.


/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

During the rice harvesting season, members of the community trap rats from the fields. Rats form a staple diet for them during this time. Rest of the year their food consists of fish, snails and cockroaches.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

The nearest public health centre is 7km away from the village. "People suffer from Asthma, Tuberculosis, and Kala Azar (black fever). In the last five years, more than 10 members of this community have died from kala azar.†The infant mortality rate is very high, with more than 60 percent of new mothers losing their children within the first month of their birth," says Narayan Ji Choudhary.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera
Bhoka Sada, 36, a Musahar poses for a picture along with his family members. The term "Musahar" comes from the word "moos" which in the local language means rat. The traditional occupation of the members of this community was that of rat catchers


/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

A woman from the community shows the catch of the day that consists of snails and fish.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

The community lives in acute poverty and most of the children here do not wear clothes due to lack of money. Rat catching as a tradition is slowly vanishing and members of the community has started working as labourers.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

Mohan Sada, 20, shows his voter ID card. He was excited to vote in the parliamentary elections, but since his village is boycotting the elections, he will not vote. The village has no electricity or roads. Sada says boycotting elections will force politicians to develop the basic infrastructure in the village.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera
Musahars are bracketed under Scheduled Castes (the official name given to the lowest caste - the former untouchables) and the community suffers from acute poverty and face the social stigma for being rat catchers and eaters.


/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

The community is not only economically marginalised but also their villages lack the basic amenities of water, roads and electricity.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

Kusum Lal, 72, is unhappy with the treatment that has always been meted out to his community. He says that no politician has ever visited their village. Only party workers come and make promises during the campaigning and then they vanish for five years. He says they will not vote until the condition of their community becomes better.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera
Children look out of the window of their house. They prefer to stay at home than going to school because of discrimination.


/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

Runa Devi, 32, shows her voter ID card. Though she has voted before, this year she will go with the villagersí decision to boycott the polls.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

Malhu Sada, 74, poses for a picture along with his wife Dutri Devi, 70. He says that their lifestyle has changed in the past 20 years as their children have started going to other states such as Punjab to work as labourers in agricultural farms.



/Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera

Acute poverty is visible everywhere. The economic condition might be changing but that is negligible. "It will take another 20 years for their condition to change and for them to reach the level of lower middle class," says MB Verma, former scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation.




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images:
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captions:
Men, women and children of Musahar community catch small fish and snails in a wetland near their village.;*;

During the rice harvesting season, members of the community trap rats from the fields. Rats form a staple diet for them during this time. Rest of the year their food consists of fish, snails and cockroaches.

;*;

The nearest public health centre is 7km away from the village. "People suffer from Asthma, Tuberculosis, and Kala Azar (black fever). In the last five years, more than 10 members of this community have died from kala azar.†The infant mortality rate is very high, with more than 60 percent of new mothers losing their children within the first month of their birth," says Narayan Ji Choudhary.

;*;Bhoka Sada, 36, a Musahar poses for a picture along with his family members. The term "Musahar" comes from the word "moos" which in the local language means rat. The traditional occupation of the members of this community was that of rat catchers;*;

A woman from the community shows the catch of the day that consists of snails and fish.

;*;

The community lives in acute poverty and most of the children here do not wear clothes due to lack of money. Rat catching as a tradition is slowly vanishing and members of the community has started working as labourers.

;*;

Mohan Sada, 20, shows his voter ID card. He was excited to vote in the parliamentary elections, but since his village is boycotting the elections, he will not vote. The village has no electricity or roads. Sada says boycotting elections will force politicians to develop the basic infrastructure in the village.

;*;Musahars are bracketed under Scheduled Castes (the official name given to the lowest caste - the former untouchables) and the community suffers from acute poverty and face the social stigma for being rat catchers and eaters.;*;

The community is not only economically marginalised but also their villages lack the basic amenities of water, roads and electricity.

;*;

Kusum Lal, 72, is unhappy with the treatment that has always been meted out to his community. He says that no politician has ever visited their village. Only party workers come and make promises during the campaigning and then they vanish for five years. He says they will not vote until the condition of their community becomes better.

;*;Children look out of the window of their house. They prefer to stay at home than going to school because of discrimination.;*;

Runa Devi, 32, shows her voter ID card. Though she has voted before, this year she will go with the villagersí decision to boycott the polls.

;*;

Malhu Sada, 74, poses for a picture along with his wife Dutri Devi, 70. He says that their lifestyle has changed in the past 20 years as their children have started going to other states such as Punjab to work as labourers in agricultural farms.

;*;

Acute poverty is visible everywhere. The economic condition might be changing but that is negligible. "It will take another 20 years for their condition to change and for them to reach the level of lower middle class," says MB Verma, former scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Daylife ID:
12e6caaafc3d6814c6c88f1f5535a92b
Photographer:
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Image Source:
Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
In Pictures: The 'rat eaters' of IndiaMusahar community in Biharís Darbhanga district still live in extreme poverty and face social stigma. Far away from the high-decibel political campaigns in Indiaís parliamentary elections, a group of semi-naked children frantically search for something to eat in the marshland of their village in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. These children belong to the Musahar community or (community of rat eaters), a socially marginalised community placed at the bottom rung of India's hierarchical caste system. About 250 families from the community have been living in Kubaul village in Darbhanga district for the past 150 years.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_Indiaen-ussupport@newscred.comUntitled Site10Wed, 30 Apr 2014 09:22:46 GMTThe 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/59b81b5807c1f06baec7fa30958d3468Men, women and children of Musahar community catch small fish and snails in a wetland near their village.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/59b81b5807c1f06baec7fa30958d3468Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaMen, women and children of Musahar community catch small fish and snails in a wetland near their village.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/caaa80f4bf1b9beb4f242391c7761611During the rice harvesting season, members of the community trap rats from the fields. Rats form a staple diet for them during this time. Rest of the year their food consists of fish, snails and cockroaches caught by family members.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/caaa80f4bf1b9beb4f242391c7761611Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaDuring the rice harvesting season, members of the community trap rats from the fields. Rats form a staple diet for them during this time. Rest of the year their food consists of fish, snails and cockroaches caught by family members.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/a23c7fb52d8e4d9f320af24c4e3ff65eBhoka Sada, 36, a Musahar poses for a picture along with his family members. The term "Musahar" comes from the word "moos" which in the local language means rat. The traditional occupation of the members of this community was that of rat catchershttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/a23c7fb52d8e4d9f320af24c4e3ff65eShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaBhoka Sada, 36, a Musahar poses for a picture along with his family members. The term "Musahar" comes from the word "moos" which in the local language means rat. The traditional occupation of the members of this community was that of rat catchersThe 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/3190b22bb61b123ce3e8653d1496726bThe nearest public health centre is 7km away from the village. "People suffer from Asthma, Tuberculosis, and Kala Azar (black fever). In the last five years, more than 10 members of this community have died from kala azar in Kubaul village.†The infant mortality rate is very high, with more than 60 percent of new mothers losing their children within the first month of their birth," says Narayan Ji Choudhary.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/3190b22bb61b123ce3e8653d1496726bShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaThe nearest public health centre is 7km away from the village. "People suffer from Asthma, Tuberculosis, and Kala Azar (black fever). In the last five years, more than 10 members of this community have died from kala azar in Kubaul village.†The infant mortality rate is very high, with more than 60 percent of new mothers losing their children within the first month of their birth," says Narayan Ji Choudhary.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/9074caef4406c0177f59223491e04753A woman of from the community shows the catch of the day that consists of snails and fish.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/9074caef4406c0177f59223491e04753Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaA woman of from the community shows the catch of the day that consists of snails and fish.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/913460c5098a50bdd1d4c92c1e907d8eThe community lives in acute poverty and most of the children here do not wear clothes due to lack of money. Rat catching as a tradition is slowly vanishing and members of these communities have started working as labourers.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/913460c5098a50bdd1d4c92c1e907d8eShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaThe community lives in acute poverty and most of the children here do not wear clothes due to lack of money. Rat catching as a tradition is slowly vanishing and members of these communities have started working as labourers.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/af4a4c7854efe0aedd4eaad79da98f86Mohan Sada, 20, shows his voter ID card. He was excited to vote for the parliamentary elections but since his village is boycotting the elections, he will not vote. The village has no electricity or roads. Sada says boycotting elections will force politicians to develop the basic infrastructure in the village.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/af4a4c7854efe0aedd4eaad79da98f86Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaMohan Sada, 20, shows his voter ID card. He was excited to vote for the parliamentary elections but since his village is boycotting the elections, he will not vote. The village has no electricity or roads. Sada says boycotting elections will force politicians to develop the basic infrastructure in the village.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/ab9ca9a6d755c906d706b7157a435b2dThe community is not only economically marginalised, but also their villages lack the basic amenities of water, roads and electricity.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/ab9ca9a6d755c906d706b7157a435b2dShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaThe community is not only economically marginalised, but also their villages lack the basic amenities of water, roads and electricity.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/3de2aa27874a5909a551e7e018aaf9a6Kusum Lal, 72, is very unhappy with the treatment that has always been meted out to his community. He says that no politician has ever visited their village. Only party workers come and make promises during campaigning and then they vanish for five years. He says they will not vote until the condition of their community becomes better.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/3de2aa27874a5909a551e7e018aaf9a6Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaKusum Lal, 72, is very unhappy with the treatment that has always been meted out to his community. He says that no politician has ever visited their village. Only party workers come and make promises during campaigning and then they vanish for five years. He says they will not vote until the condition of their community becomes better.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/67bcd10e564d2275c0a9a5660d49f0e1Musahars are bracketed under Scheduled Castes (the official name given to the lowest caste - the former untouchables) and the community suffers from acute poverty and face the social stigma for being rat catchers and eaters.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/67bcd10e564d2275c0a9a5660d49f0e1Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaMusahars are bracketed under Scheduled Castes (the official name given to the lowest caste - the former untouchables) and the community suffers from acute poverty and face the social stigma for being rat catchers and eaters.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/676e66187432e80b3c0ea2d16e5b2d06Runa Devi, 32, shows her voter ID card. Though she has voted before, this year she will go with the villagersí poll boycott.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/676e66187432e80b3c0ea2d16e5b2d06Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaRuna Devi, 32, shows her voter ID card. Though she has voted before, this year she will go with the villagersí poll boycott.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/2adc60be04e4bf6b2e1df322fd20194fMalhu Sada, 74, poses for a picture along with his wife Dutri Devi, 70. He says that their lifestyle has changed in the past 20 years as their children started going to other states such as Punjab to work as labourers in agricultural farms.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/2adc60be04e4bf6b2e1df322fd20194fShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaMalhu Sada, 74, poses for a picture along with his wife Dutri Devi, 70. He says that their lifestyle has changed in the past 20 years as their children started going to other states such as Punjab to work as labourers in agricultural farms.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/236e2bc3f4ca2fdc0ab90935cf75a515Children look out of the window of their house. They prefer to stay at home than going to school because of discrimination.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/236e2bc3f4ca2fdc0ab90935cf75a515Showkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaChildren look out of the window of their house. They prefer to stay at home than going to school because of discrimination.The 'rat eaters' of Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/69271c7495d65013c786af2c743abf2cAcute poverty is visible everywhere. The economic condition might be changing but that is negligible. "It will take another 20 years for their condition to change and for them to reach the level of lower middle class," says MB Verma, former scientist at The Defence Research and Development Organisation.http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/rat_eater_musahar_India/slideshow/the-rat-eaters-of-india/69271c7495d65013c786af2c743abf2cShowkat Shafi/ Al JazeeraThe 'rat eaters' of IndiaAcute poverty is visible everywhere. The economic condition might be changing but that is negligible. "It will take another 20 years for their condition to change and for them to reach the level of lower middle class," says MB Verma, former scientist at The Defence Research and Development Organisation.

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