Community Correspondents

Ashok Kumar Samal

Ashok Kumar Samal

Ashok Samal is a social worker and activist from Cuttack in Odisha. In a career spanning over 20 years, he has worked with multiple non-governmental organisations and people’s movements and alliances. Through Video Volunteers, he wants to amplify this work and take it to the world.

“Even in college, I was socially and politically inclined, and was associated with Ambedkarite groups. After graduation, I wanted to study more but couldn’t afford to. I struggled to find a job. The only way out seemed to be a bribe and I was very disillusioned by the system”, he says.

Instead of paying a bribe and securing a job, Ashok joined the Ambedkar Lohia Vichar Manch in 1995, and there has been no looking back since. Soon after the Manch, he joined the Ambedkar Charitable Trust and the Mulniwasi Samta Parishad. It was through his association with NGOs that he was recommended to VV.

“I used to work on issues of Dalit rights and women’s rights, especially on legal protection, rehabilitation, compensation in case of atrocities. So, VV’s model of work help me fight in these cases”, says Ashok.

Caste-discrimination is rife in his village and in the villages around. The ‘upper’ castes don’t let Dalits carry umbrellas and wear footwear in some villages. When a Dalit girl went to college, she was threatened with rape and murder by ‘upper’ caste men who did not approve of Dalits availing educational facilities.

“There are laws but this is the ground reality, this is what I want to change. When the girl who was threatened for going to college was offered police protection, she refused because she was scared of the police. What use is the law when people are afraid of approaching and taking help from authorities?”, he asks.

In another case Ashok reported, 12 Dalit homes were burned by members of ‘upper’ caste communities. Even after a year, the arsonists roam scot-free because they control the police as well.

Ashok is now working on videos on the efficiency of the government’s poverty reduction programmes like the Public Distribution System, and to document and discuss the gendered division of labour.

An ardent follower of Ambedkar and a practicing Buddhist, he believes that no religion or ideology should be followed without criticism and introspection. “Apart from the Budhha’s ideology, I read and follow the Constitution and Ambedkar’s writings”, says Ashok, hoping to pay a visit to Chaitya Bhoomi, Ambedkar’s resting place, soon.

 

Videos from Ashok

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Dalit Homes Burn While ‘Upper’ Caste Arsonists Roam Scot Free

 
/ August 11, 2017

A dozen Dalit houses were torched after electoral defeat of ‘upper’ castes in Odisha village. The police, instead of making arrests, are protecting the accused.