The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of 40 Dalit families facing social boycott from upper caste villagers in Kantio Kateni village of Dhenkanal district and sought a report in the matter from the authorities by September 15.
Citing news reports, the commission has observed that “the 40 scheduled caste families have been living in fear after people from the upper castes allegedly excommunicated them from the village”. “The issue allegedly got momentum from a trivial matter of confrontation between the scheduled castes and the upper caste over plucking of flowers by some girls of the SC community,” it said.
“Now the said SC community people are barred from going to shop, sharecropping, doing work under MGNREGS,taking out procession, participating in social functions etc. for which they are unable to fetch day to day requirements also. It is also alleged that the villagers have stopped talking with the SC community people,” the commission stated.
The order passed by the commission’s Chairperson Justice Bimla Prasad Das termed social ostracism/boycott an “inhuman practice” and emphasised that it requires serious attention and action by state authorities.
“In this background while taking cognizance of the matter suo motu, we have no alternative than to caution the authorities to take effective steps against the persons responsible for it after due inquiry and give us a report. Let the Collector and the District Magistrate Dhenkanal and Superintendent of Police, enquire into the matter and give their respective reports to the commission,” the order stated.
Meanwhile, following the intervention of authorities, the situation in the village is returning to normalcy. Sarpanch Pranabandhu Das said, “We have been holding repeated dialogues between the two communities. Things are now moving back to normal. The diktat to not speak to each other does not exist anymore.”
The matter had escalated after the girls plucked flowers from the backyard of Saisdeba Behera (36). Behera said the communities are working towards resolving pending issues. “I grow sunflowers and sell them for oil production. That day, three girls started plucking the flowers. I objected because they couldn’t have used it for prayers, they were simply wasting the flowers. Soon their elders joined in and a brawl broke out between members of the two communities,” he said.
“We reached out to the police and the matter was resolved, but the girls started making false allegations that I tried to misbehave. They approached the police with these false accusations. Because of this, multiple meetings were held and we decided to boycott them,” Behera added.
Jyoti Naik, a member of the Dalit community, said, “It is true that the situation is limping to normalcy. But it will take a while to bury all issues and move ahead. For now, it is important that we are deprived of our rights.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines