In Odisha’s Dhenkanal district, a dalit girl’s act of plucking flowers from the backyard of an upper caste family over two months ago has led to the social boycott of 40 families from the community for the last two weeks.
As per reports, tensions escalated between the two communities after one of the families objected to the issue, followed by several meetings which finally led to the social boycott. The affected villagers from Kantio Kateni village have alleged that they are being deprived of PDS from the local distributor and the provision store owner has also stopped supplying goods. As a result the villagers are forced to walk at least 5 km to buy essentials, a resident was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Out of a total 800 families in Kantio Kateni, 40 are from the Scheduled Caste Naik community to which the girl belonged. Following the social boycott call, the villagers have submitted memorandums to the district administration and the police station concerned on August 17. However, no action has been taken by police so far and no agreement has been reached, despite two rounds of peace meetings.
The affected villagers have stated in the memorandum that they have been deprived of sharecropping to make sure “that our people do not get apple work in the village” and have to move in search of work. “Most of our people are semi-literate and illiterate and work in the villagers’ fields,” it added.
In addition to depriving them of provisions, the families facing boycott also alleged that they have been warned against taking out any procession for weddings or funerals on the village road. There is a diktat that the children from the community cannot attend the local government school, while the dalit teachers have been asked to get themselves transferred, according to the memorandum.
However, the sarpanch and members of the committee have denied the allegation about the deprivation of essentials even though they agreed that the villagers have been asked not to talk to members of the community. “It is true that people were asked not to talk to them, and it is because of their wrongdoings. But other allegations are baseless,” the Indian Express quoted Harmohan Mallik, secretary of the village development committee, as saying.
Notably, the sarpanch has referred to the matter as an inter-community issue and attempted to cover up the issue saying that “the majority community has problems that the minority community implicates them in false cases and files police complaints under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The incident which triggered this had led to an altercation and a minor brawl. For a couple of days, as per the committee’s decision, the majority community had stopped talking with members of the Dalit community. The situation is now returning to normal,” the Express reported.
Meanwhile, the police are waiting for another round of talks before taking any action.