Frames from Sweeper Colony
A photo feature by Amdadul Haque
“Nobody respects us because everyone calls us sweepers. But, we are not sweepers, they should call us cleaners.”
-- Joshna Rani Das
They came here from Kanpur in India's Uttar Pradesh more then 230 years ago, looking for a refuge from the shackles of the caste system and searching for a better life and livelihood. But the British government, unsure of how to handle these migrants, appointed them jobs as sweepers, and swept them under the rug.
Centuries later, this is how they remain, invisible and forgotten, in crowded colonies and tenements, working as cleaners for Dhaka City Corporation. Their bodies, their work and their rights, all virtually ignored.
At the sweeper colony in Tikatoli, Dhaka, about 210 families live in the five-storey building. Life in the colony never stops -- people are coming and going to work. One sleeps, just as another awakes. The sound of the children's laughter ring out as they play and ride around their bicycles.
Despite the injustices they face, the sweeper colony thrives with vibrancy. For the people here, their life goes on with the same joy and sorrows common to the human race.
All the ask for is to be honoured as a cleaner, and for us to discard the label of 'sweeper'. Perhaps to us, there is no difference between these two words, but one hopes the wishes of Joshna Rain Das will one day be fulfilled.