In UP’s Bundelkhand, caste politics over water could see Dalit anger translate into voting behaviour on Monday

The lanes became narrower and filthier toward Kainthi village’s Harijan Basti. Harijan, a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi to refer to the untouchables or lower castes, also known as Dalits, and basti meaning a colony. The term was deemed derogatory and patronising and was replaced with Dalit — although it is not an official term and not accepted by many in and out of the community — but in villages in India, such changes mean nothing. In Bundelkhand, for example, all villages are segregated into upper cast and lower caste sections. There’s a queue outside the only tap in Kaithi’s Harijan Basti. Men in towels and vests sit patiently waiting for the queue to move, for their turn at the tap. Prabhu Dayal, a 24-year-old, is waiting, too, chewing at the stem of a neem tree disinterestedly.

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In Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi, toilets built under Swachh Bharat Mission exist only on paper, open defecation continues

I stood there struggling to make myself fit in the tin-box. The two feet by feet (barely), windowless container was one of the over 90 million toilets India claims to have built under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past five years. In trying to figure out how to negotiate my limbs, the curious journey through winding, steep stairs to the rooftop toilet and the subsequent 10-minute struggle to lock the rusty, clanging door was forgotten. The pan of the squat toilet was tiny, fit for a child. It was not meant for the long legs of an adult. The toilet is sparkling new. It was installed two years ago. It’s sparkling because the household doesn’t use it.

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