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Haja Bai Sillah’s death brings focus to caste polarisation in The Gambia
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Haja Bai Sillah’s death brings focus to caste polarisation in The Gambia

The death of Haja Bai Sillah has cast a spotlight on the Serahuleh caste system.

It has been almost three weeks since the 19-year-old jumped to her death from the fourth floor of an apartment building in Spain.

Reports from different sources indicated that she killed herself because they wouldn’t allow her marry to the boy she loved.

The bereaved family, however, has denied this in an interview with Standard Newspaper. According to her father, she was possessed by devils.

He said: “My daughter was possessed by the devil for many years. I treated her until she got better. According to her friends, Haja was seen laughing and crying. She even threatened that she was going to kill herself.

“Her friends tried to stop her and called the attention of people. They could not however stop her as she jumped from the fourth floor of the storey building.”

Haja’s father’s narration was however refuted by some. Was he trying to cover up the caste-based discrimination in Serahuleh society?

Haja’s boyfriend is a Serahuleh but from another caste group. A reliable source confirmed to What’s On-Gambia that her relatives refused to let her walk down the aisle with him.

The caste system is deeply rooted in Serahuleh society and so far, no local or international pressure has been able to remove it.

Prominent journalist and film producer, Babucarr Sankanu, last week took to Facebook to condemn the bereaved family for covering up the reason why the 19-year-old took her life.

“Now that Haja Bai Sillah is no longer alive to defend herself, people are just farting out all kinds of tales to spoil her name and cover the rotten mentalities and hypocrisy in our communities,” he wrote.

Sankanu, who is known for not mincing his words, added: “Now tell me: will a devil-possessed person have the time to carefully write a touching suicide note, seek forgiveness from his or her friends and give detailed account of the ABUSE (I will keep the exact forms of abuse private for now) he or she went through in the hands of some relatives? Devil-possessed people often speak in coded and irregular languages.

“If they cannot challenge the hypocrisy and backwardness in our societies with courage, let them stop pouncing on the voiceless and defenceless members of our community.

“What some holier-than-thou folks did to Haja Bai Sillah was too wicked, barbaric and nasty for some people who called themselves Muslims. No wonder some shadowy characters would like to have Haja Bai Sillah declared sick or devil-possessed so that the TRUTH can blurred. SHAME on all those who are trying to discredit Haja Bai Sillah.”

A Serahuleh gender activist, who begged for anonymity for fear of backlash, said the caste system is the ‘hidden apartheid’ in their society.

According to her, Gambians must not let Haja be forgotten, and continue to educate the population to denounce castism.

Haja Bai Sillah, whose body was flown back home, was laid to rest on the 16th July, 2015. May her soul rest in peace! 

 

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