Success: Waking a languid administration in Odisha

In the month of July last year, three families were thrown out of their house in Deultunda village of Bargarh district in Odisha. The mob, which chased them out of the village, mostly consisting of ‘upper-caste’ Hindus, also vandalised whatever little possessions they had. “They were drunk and chased us with knives,” recounted Amar Pandey, one of the victims, talking to Community Correspondent Saroj Suna a day after the incident.

Caste conflicts are always simmering in rural Odisha but it reached a boiling point when Pandey’s son, who works on daily wages at a school construction site, was believed to have stolen a bag of cement from the location. Acting solely on the basis of hearsay and suspicion and driven by the fashionable contempt for ‘lower castes’, the staff overseeing the construction deemed it fit to to break-into the worker’s house, tear down his family’s belongings and chase them out of the city along with their neighbours.

The police came, strolled around the village and went back to the station, Pandey informed. For there was no food they had left to eat, all three families resorted to fasting in front of District Collector’s office — asking for food and justice. As it would turn out, the DC was on a leave and the Assistant District Magistrate was not to be disturbed by a small bunch of protesters sitting outside without shade.

It was only when CC Suna reached the spot and explained to the ADM that the incompetence is being documented, he started to see things in the perspective of the oppressed. It is, after all, the lack of purview that allows this negligence from the administration’s part. In about a month of the incident, the dislodged families were rehabilitated to their respective houses with relief funds and the orders to form a peace committee in the area were undersigned.

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