By overcoming their inherited disadvantages, the small community is now leading honest lives to earn their bread and send their children to school through hard work
A small Hindu minority colony belonging to the Das community, who had settled in Meherpur around a century ago, is thriving collectively against all odds despite generations of neglect and social exclusion for being of the low caste in the Hindu hierarchy.
The colony, known as “Das para” at Bamanpara in Amdaha union under the Sadar upazila, is home to 70 Das families with a population of 260.
The community came into being over a century ago, formed by groups of people who had left their ancestral homes and settled here in search of a livelihood.
For generations, their fate seemed to have suffered a vicious cycle of social discrimination as mandated traditional occupations left them without opportunities for education or skill development.
However, by overcoming their inherited disadvantages, the small community is now leading honest lives to earn their bread and send their children to school through hard work.
The primary occupation of Das community is making handicrafts out of bamboo canes, including bags, mats and a wide array of different types of baskets.
However, their craft, which is eco-friendly, cannot alone improve their financial conditions as it has little demand in the market because of the widespread use of cheap plastic alternatives. That is why some among them resort to pulling rickshaws to earn some extra money on the side.
Lakshman Das said: “I have a son and a daughter, both of whom are going to school. Besides selling bamboo handicrafts I also pull vans sometimes. By the grace of the almighty, I am able to cover my family expenses and my children’s school fees with my monthly earnings of around Tk7,000-Tk8,000.”
Amdaha Union Parishad member Darud Ali said: “People of Das colony aren’t financially well-off. Various NGOs help finance their business. But they are good people. They never get into any conflict with anyone.
“Under a government housing project in the 2019-20 fiscal year, we built houses for two families on their own land. We are currently waiting for approval to build houses for 10 more families.”
Amdaha Union Parishad Chairman Anarul Islam said that the members of the Das colony in Bamanpara had been brought under old-age allowance, disability allowance and widow allowance benefits. Since bamboo handicrafts fall under the small cottage industry, the UNO and I are arranging training facilities for them.”