In the evening, however, the 27-year-old becomes a neatly dressed student, who attends classes for a Bachelor’s degree; the tasks of the day shelved away as he scribbles notes. At school, he had often dreamt of being an engineer.
“I was hoping that my education would be enough to land me a decent desk job,” says Masih, as he sits in his modest house in Old Golimar. “But when the list came out I was shocked to see myself appointed as a sanitary worker in the finance department.” His eyes fill with tears as he remembers the day. “It hurts to be called a bhangi [sanitation worker],” he adds.
At the Sindh law department, a Hindu employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing his dismissal from service, said he had completed a college degree but is suffering due to his different beliefs.
“This is what the poor and minorities get for educating themselves,” he said. “We are suffering because of our faith.” He does not plan to spend money on educating his child, as he believes that won’t help him get a decent job in the end. The sanitary worker had got the job on minority quota after he asked for help from his community’s political representatives.
“It is sad that uneducated Muslims are appointed as clerks and cannot even write their names, but we are cleaning trash.”
The linkage between blasphemy law and the Bhangi community must be understood clearly and so far none has looked into it. Actually, the violence against ‘Christian’ in Pakistan is actually violence against the Sweeper community who are completely isolated by the mainstream Pakistan society and their issues rarely raised to lime light. Hence whenever the Bhangis have come up in education and asserting themselves, such frivolous charges are raised against them for ‘defaming’ the ‘Prophet’ or desecrating Quran. The dirty fact is that Pakistani society is as criminal, racist and caste-ist as their counter parts in India and other parts of South Asia. There is no security protection for them. Their number is miniscule as total minorities in Pakistan remain less than 5% and yet Pakistani society is ‘afraid’ of them. The Bhangis are considered as dirty, drunkard, untouchable by the Pakistani elite and no constitution protection provided to them. In fact, it is quite shocking that most of the time violence against them is misleading headline meant as violence against Christian. In South Asia caste matters the most and Pakistan is no stranger to this. In fact, the way Pakistani middle classes, writers, singers use term Bhangi to denigrate others puts us to shame. Several years back a Pakistani band produced a super hit sufi song ‘ Hum Charsi Bhangi hai’ which was appreciated very much but it clearly send out a message that Bhangis despite being ‘charsi’ are the best friends and good at heart. While the messenger wanted to communicate a good message yet it stereotyped a community and strangely enough there was no protest in Pakistan against it. For me it is strange that whenever I listen to this song again and again I do find the usage of Bhangi as contemptuous and full of flaws.