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Baal baal bache! Barbers of Balod end their 6-month boycott

Satish Razak | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:47 IST

The villagers in Chhattisgarh's Hirapur village, two kilometres from Balod town, can finally breathe a sigh of relief and spruce up a little. They no longer need to keep looking shabby as the barber community of the district has finally agreed to provide their services to these people after three months' of the mutual boycott.

The agreement was reached after intense negotiations between the two sides and it took the District Collector's intervention to resolve the issue.

The dispute

The conflict started six months ago when the barbers of the village demanded a hike in payment for their services. When the villagers were not forthcoming, the barber community hardened its stance.

Soon, the matter came to a face-off between the barber community and the rest of the village. The village elders decided to boycott the barbers. The four other villages of the area also followed suit.

This not only puts the bread-and-butter of the barbers at stake but also resulted in social discord. The barbers retaliated by convening a district-level meeting and passing a diktat that no barber in the entire district would provide services to these villages.

Those disobeying the order were threatened with a fine.

The impact

The dispute had practical ramifications for both the sides. The villagers could not find barbers for their daily shave. Even death ceremonies were affected.

On Saturday, a village woman died in Hirapur. And there were no barbers to shave the heads of the family men. Ultimately, some young men from the Sahu society had to volunteer to do the job.

The barbers were also affected as their livelihoods were at stake. Yet, the community leaders were adamant not to relent. The controversy was threatening to snowball into a law-and-order situation as tensions soared high between the factions.

The protests

Soon, the villagers began to feel the pinch and filed a police complaint. Both sides resorted to the protests and dharnas as the stalemate showed no signs of breaking.

The residents of Hirapur took out a large rally in Balod town and handed over a memorandum to the district officials.

The barber community retaliated by putting up notices outside every barber shop in the district prescribing a ban on providing services to the residents of Hirapur. On 14 July, the barbers organised a rally outside the district headquarters demanding the withdrawal of cases against the community members. Around 3,000 barbers participated in the rally.

The compromise

The villagers of Hirapur finally approached the District Collector Rajesh Singh Rana and the Superintendent of Police. Rana ordered the SDM Harish Mandavi, Tehsildar AR Rana and other officials to resolve the impasse.

Both the sides agreed to a compromise after several rounds of meetings and commotion. The barbers tendered an apology to the villagers while the villagers lifted the social boycott.

Both factions are now happy over the resolution of the matter and have resolved to live in amity.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 6 September 2016, 3:03 IST