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Jharkhand: From security guard to a PhD, a Dalit youth’s story of struggle

Report- Anand Dutta

Ranchi— Umren Seth, a Dalit youth from the district, is now on his way to becoming a professor. He recently passed the NET [National Eligibility Test] and has been enrolled at Ranchi College for a PhD. Umren’s success is also especially notable because to reach this point, for almost nine and a half years he worked as a labourer and a security guard in an apartment complex.

Umren Seth

In 2009, Umren, a resident of Telwadih village in the district of Ranchi, Jharkhand, was doing farming at home after passing his 10th standard exam. One day the following year, he suddenly left the house without informing anyone and came to Ranchi for the first time. Which is at a distance of only 65km from his house.

A friend took him to a construction site to find work. On seeing Umren, his age, and his physical stature, the contractor said he would not be able to lift bricks or sand, but he could do the work of distributing water to the labourers and other small tasks. It was decided that he would receive a wage of Rs.120 per day for this work. Umren agreed.

Back at home, the family members were worried about their son’s whereabouts. Umren’s father, Gaya Prasad Seth, worked as a labourer in Jamshedpur. His mother Sabri Devi was a housewife, and the day he left home, she had been visiting a relative’s place. Umren sent a message through a friend that he was working as a labourer. And he would be doing this for the time being. After some resistance, the family then accepted [his decision].

Umren tells The Mooknayak, I made sure I finished work by 5 pm every day. So that I could then study after that. In this way, I passed the 12th standard examination in 2013.

During this time, the apartments at the construction site where Umren had been working were completed. Anand Thakur, a professor at Ranchi College, who had come there to live, suggested to Umren to take up the job of security guard at the site. He should also continue his studies, in which the professor would help him. Umren started to work there on a salary of Rs.3,500 per month.

Umren says the apartment dwellers returned from work early. So he became a little freer after five o’clock in the evening. In this way, while also working here, he studied as well and completed his graduationin2016.

On reaching this point, Umren started preparing for competitive examinations. He did the preparation for two years, but because he was also working, he was not able to give his full attention to his studies. According to Umren, perhaps this was the reason why he could not pass any of these exams. When he came to realize this, he again applied for admission into PG [post-graduation].

A few months after enrolling, he left his job as a guard and began living in a small room that he rented for Rs.1,200. Now he had no means of earning an income for himself. His elder brother said that he would send him money for his needs and that he should study. Sometimes a friend would pay his rent for the month, and someone else would charge his mobile.

Umren further explains that I took admission into PG in 2019. I decided that I would attend the regular classes. However, I was only able to understand a few things as I studied. When I used to ask the teachers [for clarification], the students around me used to laugh. But I knew I didn’t have the knowledge. With the help of friends, I worked hard and started to understand things.

He says that this year I read so much, it was more than I had ever read in my life. Think of it as giving it your whole being. In this way, my studies were going on, when the lockdown was implemented and even friends were unable to help.

I left Ranchi and went to the village, Umren continues. Here I did farm labour until noon, after which I would apply myself to my studies. We have very little cultivable land. It is just enough to grow that much paddy as to last the year. Vegetables and other things have to be bought from the market.

However, despite all, he continued his studies and completed his master’s degree. During this time he also came to know about the NET exam. He had never heard about it before. He talked to some friends and learned about the exam and also the benefits of appearing for it. He also became aware for the first time about what he would gain by doing a PhD.

I stopped going to visit people he says. I cut down on the time spent on the mobile and started preparing in earnest. I sat for the NET exam in 2020. After a year and a half, I came to know that my name is also in the list. Now I didn’t know what is meant by the synopsis, what is research, or how to write, I didn’t know anything. Slowly, by asking, by finding out [from here and there], I started to understand. And it began to seem doable.

What is Umren’s view about the condition of Dalits?

In response to this question, Umren says at first I did not understand such things. Everything seemed as if it was normal. If there was a ceremony in the house of an upper [oppressor]-caste friend in the village, we used to go to make the arrangements but then would leave when it was time for them to serve the meal. At first, I did not know why we used to leave at that time, but later I started to understand.

Recently, Umren read Joothan, a book written by Om Prakash Valmiki. He says that while reading this book I cried many times. I could not believe that Dalits are exploited in this way even today.

It is not God who determines our caste and lets us know about it, he continues. It is people who create these divides. But Dalits should not back down under anyone’s pressure. They have to continue to move ahead. That’s why you will have to apply yourself, you will have to work hard. I have read Abraham Lincoln, and I have started reading Ambedkar. We Dalits also have to work hard like them. Since Umren made up his mind to become a professor, he has quietly applied himself to his studies. He has a clear vision of his goal.

यहाँ हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें: सिक्योरिटी गार्ड से पीएचडी तक, जानिए एक दलित लड़के का संघर्ष

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

The Mooknayak
The Mooknayakhttps://www.themooknayak.co.in
The Mooknayak is dedicated to Marginalised and unprivileged people of India. It works on the principle of Dr. Ambedkar and Constitution.

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