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Caste Discrimination Took Precedence Over Humanity During Cyclone Fani

While Odisha is trying to gather pieces after Cyclone Fani, Dalit community in the Puri, are facing caste discrimination in the wake of catastrophe.

A disturbing incident of caste discrimination was reported by our Community Correspondent, Sumitra Barik in Odisha. The Dalit community from Baripada village in Puri were denied shelter with the upper caste people, on the day before cyclone Fani struck Odisha.   

On 3 May 2019, when Cyclone Fani struck Puri, Bhubaneswar, Khurda and other parts of Odisha the trail of destruction that Cyclone Fani would leave behind was unanticipated. Although initial relief was sent to people, the aftermath also witnessed awful events of discrimination.

“Bhoi, Sar, Dom, Dhoba caste people and we were there”, said Anil Gochayat, a Dalit resident from Biripadia village. Apart from the massive destruction of land, economy, and infrastructure, around 1.2 million people were moved to safe locations. While this task of evacuation was happening, the Dalit families of in Baripada village rushed to Pateli school to take shelter in the night. But their entry was denied.

People testified that under the pucca roofs only upper caste people were taking shelter. The Dalit families were forced to take shelter under asbestos sheets. “The asbestos broke down the next day when the storm and torrential rains got stronger. And two coconut trees fell on the house”, added Anil.

In a caste-ridden society as in India, discrimination in times of disaster and rehabilitation cannot be avoided. It is highly predictable as the intent of caste discrimination is ingrained in our society and administration. During the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, thousands were declared dead and millions were homeless. While rehabilitation was under process, Dalits and Muslims lived separately from upper-caste Hindus in camps. The similar incident happened during the 2007 Bihar floods. A report released by Dalit Watch where it says no Dalits were allowed onto rescue boats whilst being denied medical treatment and entry into relief camps.

It was disheartening that the Dalit community had to take shelter in another school’s veranda to stay safe the next day when there was an increase in the storms.

The Dalits are facing harassment for generations now. This discrimination is a heinous act and it’s very unfortunate that the government fails to address these frequent occurrences.

Video by Community Correspondent Sumitra Barik

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of VV Editorial Team.

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