Age-old discriminatory practices defied by Dalit woman

When one woman, hell bent on defying age-old discriminatory practices, teams up with a community journalist, equally eager to bring change to his community, amazing things can happen.

Pushpanjali Suna works as a caretaker at the local Anganwadi (Child Care Centre) in Bharuamunda village, Odisha. Like in large parts of India, in Bharuamunda too, the upper caste rules. Pushpanjali took it upon herself to challenge this status quo and in early 2010, for the first time, she entered the temple to pray.This defiance of Pushpa’s created havoc in the upper caste community. On 21st June 2010, the villagers called for a meeting and prohibited her from entering the temple then onwards. Subsequently, the Anganwadi centre she had been running was shut down.

That is when Community Correspondent Lambodhar Tarki joined hands with her. They tried to explain and convince the villagers that every individual has the right to enter any public place and should not be discriminated against on the basis of caste. It is a criminal offence to do so under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution. The fact that they had gone so far as closing the Anganwadi centre while trying to ‘punish’ Pushpa was unacceptable!

Pushpa’s courage and persistent efforts eventually paid off after she explained the importance of the Integrated Child Development Scheme under which Anganwadis are established. They also pointed out that it was a crime to dismiss Pushpa from her job by virtue of her being a Dalit. Eventually, Pushpa was reinstated as an Anganwadi worker. Discrimination on the basis of caste is a structural evil. Pushpa’s victory is a small step towards a society with no discrimination.

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