On 22nd January 2012, the members of the Meher caste burned down 44 Dalit houses in Lathor village Bolangir, Odisha. Having already faced the trauma of watching their homes turn to ashes while the police remained absconding, they have had to face apathy and delays at every stage while trying to get justice. Community Correspondent Lambodar Takri reports.
The tension between the two groups had been brewing for some time when the incident took place.
“The Dalits in that area (Gandapara) are economically well off, at least compared to Dalits in other areas. Some have jobs in banks and schools. The people of the upper caste found this hard to digest. They were just looking for an excuse to do this,” Says Lambodar, a Dalit himself.
Soon after the incident on 22nd January, the victims were shifted to the Durgeshwari high school. This temporary relief camp ended up being home for nearly a year where almost 200 people lived in 4 schoolrooms. Visiting officials had promised that the houses would be complete within three months.
In February 2013, there seemed to be some movement on the front. A letter arrived from the Junior Engineer of Khaprakol asking the group to move out of the relief camps and into their new houses.
The new houses were, to the horror of the group, just four walls—no running water, no electricity, no toilets.
“We had everything in our old homes. Why is the administration insulting in this way?” asks a young girl who lost her house in a fire in an afternoon.
After Lambodar made the video he showed it to the Junior Engineer and asked him to take action on the issue immediately.
“I told him that this was not just local media, people everywhere would watch it and call him to take action if he didn’t do it on his own. He promised to get the work done,” says Lambodar.
On the 31st of March 2013, the 44 families who lost their homes will move into new houses, which are now almost complete. As they start to settle in and resume their lives, we hope that the administration will not forget that there is still work to be done to rehabilitate the people.
Call to Action: Please call the Junior Engineer of Khaprakhol Block, Akshya Kumar Behera on 9437146348 and ask him to ensure that every single house has access to running water, electricity and toilets.
More Videos from Lambodar-http://indiaunheard.
Fact Finding Report- http://www.countercurrents.