One of India’s biggest religious hubs, Puri, is also a hub for atrocities against Dalits by upper caste individuals.
Parvati Nayak from Gorual village, Puri, was sleeping with her family when upper caste people allegedly set her house on fire in the middle of the night. She, along with her husband approached the police, but they didn’t help as they were unable to find any evidence.
Puri, one of the most important centers for religion in India. Unfortunately, it is also where caste-based atrocities are at their peak. In several places, even the police take a back seat as Dalits are constantly harassed and abused. Puri, along with Jajpur and Balesore are three of those districts where caste-based distinctions and atrocities are the highest.
In villages such as Gorual and Nuagaon, Dalits are prohibited from entering temples, worshipping and many other things. The harsh partiality is practised on a daily basis and is a grave cause for concern. In another incident, Sanju Nayak from Gorual recalls, “My husband was inside the house and they threatened me from entering the house. When I didn’t move, they pushed me and I fell on the tube well. They dragged my husband outside and beat him mindlessly”. Sanju was three months pregnant, and she lost her child when she fell during the tussle.
In 2018 alone, the number of caste-based atrocities against Dalits registered in Odisha was as shocking as 1775 with as many as 208 cases of violence. Because of fear of further retaliation, a majority of the victims do not even report the crimes against them and hence, the above figure is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau, the number of cases of atrocities has increased against Dalits in India. 33,000 cases of atrocities on SC in 2008, which peaked at 45,000 cases in 2014 while 40,800 cases were recorded in 2016.
Violence against Dalits is said to be on the rise because of the inefficiency of the police and the ruling government. Although the people from the socially backward community, complain about abuse and humiliation by upper caste, the police choose to remain silent, leaving the perpetrators free. “If the authority is a Brahmin, the attitude during the investigation, cases against Dalits changes. Many times the investigation becomes directionless”, said Ashok Dash. In many cases, Dalits are sent to jail with false accusations and the provision of legal aid does not serve much to the marginalised section.
Discrimination is a crime. In a tribal dominated state like Odisha, it needs social legislation to address the diversity of social issues which are being excluded in the current situation.
Video by Community Correspondent Sumitra Barik
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team.