Homeless Because I am a Dalit?

In April 2012, 24 Dalit families in a village in Odisha received news that the meager shelters that they called home for the last 50 years were up for demolishing. The land would be ‘cleared’ to accommodate the expansion of the village market to build a community hall. A few ‘upper caste’ people who arrived with police, administration and High Court Orders carried out the plunder. The land in question is adjacent to a graveyard located on the outskirts of the village of Dhamamunda in Khaprakhol Block, Balangir District in the state. These families have been the ‘guardians’ of the dead for as long as anyone can remember. It is they who have been performing the government’s job of maintaining the graveyard. Now they have been left with nowhere to go.  The families live in an inhuman makeshift arrangement of stacked bricks draped in plastic. Nothing has been proposed for their rehabilitation. One question continues to haunts the community - “Are we homeless because we belong to ‘lower’ castes like Gana, Sipa, Birjhal?” In a parochial and orthodox religious state like Odisha the caste system continues to be prevalent. The displaced community has always been treated like pariahs by their ‘upper caste’ neighbors. Their children are discriminated against in school. They are not allowed to enter the temple. They are not allowed to even touch a person belonging to another caste. Community Correspondent Lambodar Takri who is a Dalit himself produced his first IndiaUnheard video on the people of this distressed community. His 3 minute community video is a rare platform for the voices and issues of the Dalits of Dhamamunda. They are a community that has always been ignored by the mainstream and the media. Through Lambodar’s camera, they are now talking back. And you are listening. Call to Action: “I appeal to the viewers of my video to call District Collector, Mr. Debaran Mishra on 06652232001” says Lambodar in his first video. Tell him that you have seen and heard about the forceful eviction of 24 dalit and tribal families in  Dhamamunda Village, Khaprakhol Block, Bolangir district, Odisha. Ask him to look into the matter and rehabilitate the families immediately. Written by – Amrita Anand

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