Cases of social banishment have been on the rise in Odisha and a lot of them have come into limelight recently. From being socially ostracised for marrying out of tribe to facing delay in cremation for being a manual scavenger, social stigmas are very common in the state.
The case in Nuaguda village of Malkangiri district was one of those. A 75-year-old widow's body could not be cremated for two days as villagers had ostracised the family because her son worked as a manual scavenger despite being a Kshatriya and belonging to the upper caste. The family was made to pay Rs 1000 for Mahaprasad at the Jagannath temple in Puri to purge the so-called sin.
A similar incident happened last year in the same village when the body of a 65-year-old woman was dragged on a cot by the family members after villagers refused to lend help in carrying her mortal remains just because she belonged to the OBC category.
In another recent case from Koraput district, a minor tribal girl who was raped by the headmaster of a school is now facing social boycott. After the terrible incident, instead of showing compassion villagers are demanding community feast for the pregnancy of the victim from the father.
Amidst all this social stigma taking a strong roots in the financially deprived villages and towns of Odisha, Catch News spoke to a tribal couple who hail from Keonjhar town of the state who too have been socially boycotted, their reason being in love.
Six-years-ago Panda Nayak and Sukanti of Brahmanigaon fell in love with each other. Despite belonging to different tribal communities and being unaware of the troubles ahead, they got married in the same year.
As soon as they tied the nuptial knot and informed their families and relatives, they were ostracised. The newly weds then had to go out hunting for shelter.
In a conversation with Catch News Panda Nayak shared, “After being thrown out of the village we were on road and started looking for a shelter and finally stopped at a small village, Tulasipur located 6 km north of our own village in Keonjhar. For a couple of days, our life was happy and things started taking a perfect turn but there was definitely more to unravel.
After staying in Tulasipur for over a month, the owner came to know that we were out castes from our village and so he forced us out of the only shelter we could manage after a lot of difficulties.”
Nayak said the memories of the day they were thrown out on the road and badly treated still haunted him. However, the humiliation gave courage to the couple and they decided to stop the search for a rented accommodation and instead, build their own shanty on the road side to live peacefully.
Since then the couple has been staying in the shanty. Their family has grown as they are blessed with two children now but even after all these years their plight remains the same.
When we enquired from Sukanti regarding the reason behind the delay in help, she shared, “We do not expect much from life but just enough food for survival and hence we have contacted the administration for ration card and a accommodation to live. However every time we seek help, they turn down our request and give us false hope promising they would look into the matter at the earliest."
When Catch News contacted Dalit Adivasi Manch's President Ramakanta Patra, he shared, “The plight of this tribal couple won't go unnoticed though the local administration is apathetic towards them. The delay in providing them help is a cause of concern.”
First published: 5 January 2018, 18:41 IST