Lathur Atrocity: Memo to (Defunct) NCSC
27th January 2012
Dr. P. L. Punia
National Commission for Scheduled Caste
Lok Nayak Bhavan, Khan Market,
Subject: Demanding Stringent and Immediate Lawful Action against Culprits of Caste Atrocities on Dalit (Ganda) Families at Lathore village (Bolangir District), Odisha.
We are writing to you with deep distress about the inhuman and heinous crime committed on over 250 Scheduled Caste persons of 50 families, At/Po Lathore, Block- Khaprakhol in Bolangir District, Odisha. This horrifying and traumatic incident has created a grave situation and unparallel and irreparable losses with all their hard earned possessions and houses gutted in one of the worst caste atrocities committed ever in the state by paralyzing the living support system of victims by Caste Hindus.
In the noon of 22nd January 2012 at Lathore (village), Caste Hindu went on a rampant targeting on Scheduled Caste (Ganda community), blazed off 50 houses forcing Dalit to flee from the village. This incident happened when a school going dalit boy (Ganesh Suna) of class 9th went to a garment shop owned by Jayadev Meher to buy a shirt who was the former President of Oriya Banik Sangh. His two sons Daya Meher and Bharat Meher were present in the shop at that time. When Ganesh Suna just about to leave the shop the shopkeeper Bharat Meher started accusing him in the pretext of stealing a shirt from his shop. Despite Ganesh denying such charges the shopkeeper now joined by his brother Daya Meher Started hurling castes abuses. Soon other members of the Meher community barged into the shop. The shopkeeper, his brother and other upper caste Hindus then ganged up and mercilessly beat up Ganesh Suna and threatened to eliminate him if he dares to open his lips. Then, Ganesh came back to his Basti and narrated others regarding his being humiliated at the hands of the Upper castes. One of his relatives went to the shop to inquire about the incident; he was also equally abused and beaten mercilessly. Enraged by such caste abuses on the part of the higher caste and beating up a dalit boy and an elderly person, four dalit boys went to the shop to enquire peacefully into the matter.
The dalits thought that the matter was over and went back to their basti. In the mean time, all the high caste Hindus (Meher) held a caste panchayat on the matter and finally, decided to finish them all. Indeed, they already had several such caste panchayats in the past. According to the victims they were looking for a pretext and at last found a small manufactured false allegation of a dalit boy thieving a piece of cloth. About 500 higher caste Hindus of local Meher Community (Caste Hindu) attacked the Dalit Basti with dreadful weapons, chased to nearby forest and flared off all the houses at night. The dalits in the village alleged that if a dalit built a house, dress well, send their children to school, are seen with suspicion and contempt. This particular dalit community is mostly landless. They are not allowed to hold property, built a pucca house of their choice more spacious, taller than the caste Hindus as if it is the exclusive right of caste Hindus. What is surprising is that the caste Hindus chased off all the dalit to the nearby forest where they had to hide themselves to save their lives. Then, they looted all their belongings and thereafter set all the (50) houses of Dalits on fire led mostly by the dominant and rich community (Meher and Aggarwals) of the village. They had decided to attack the dalit with proper planning in the caste panchayat of higher castes. Some of the dominant and prosperous individuals of the village provided both logistic and material support to take the conspiracy to a grand success. Some of the Dominant members supplied petrol, sharp weapon and other such fatal weapons. It was an organized crime well-planned out attack at night making the community vulnerable to respond to the situation at awe hour. They had decided to destroy their habitation and most importantly their sources of livelihood. The material possessions they have earned after decades of hard labour went in a vain in a few minutes. Everything has gone, and an uncertain future looms at large. Having failed to bear the loss the dalits have gone helpless. Many women and children are undergoing treatment as they were beaten mercilessly crossing all moral limits before they could escape. They wonder why is it that they were collectively being punished, if at all someone from the community committed something wrong, could have been punished. Caste atrocities are common in the region but incident of this magnitude did not happen in the region in the near past. The actual conditions of the forms of discrimination and degree of discrimination experienced by former untouchables are rather very high in the village. Their physical contact is regarded virtually polluting by the clean “interior caste”.
The dalits in the village were and continue to face worst form of discrimination. The dalits of the village do not comply with the dictate of the caste Hindus and did protest to serve the higher caste according to old caste-based rituals. Integration of the Ganda community into the traditional Oriya society meant, therefore, that they were obliged to perform those tasks which deemed polluting and unclean. As an untouchable Ganda existed in the realm of the impure and this required their performing the most unpleasant task of the village. Their position also demanded that contact between them and the caste Hindus were strictly controlled and regulated by the norms of caste Hindus society. The position of the untouchable confined within a curious circularity. They were considered as impure by birth and therefore were constrained to perform the most impure social duties. Yet, the very act of performing these duties confirmed their untouchability and sealed the distance between them and the upper caste Hindus. Indeed, one of the important issues of the Ganda social mobilization consequently had been to reject the traditional task of Ganda caste specially pertaining to the handling and disposal of dead animals, beating up drums in marriage ceremonies, paying monetary contribution in Saraswati, Durga Puja etc. The dalits refused to pay for a Puja in which they won’t be allowed to inter the Puja premises by the caste Hindus (Meher). Understandably, this assertion of the Ganda community threatened and enraged the caste Hindus. The false accusation of the boy thieving from the shop was a mere pretext to settle score with dalits with worst form of violence. The local petrol pump owned by local influential politician provided petrol free of cost to execute this brutal assault.
While the killer crowd was approaching, the people from Ganda community repeatedly called the police, and approached the administration but to no avail. The police reached the spot late due to pressure from the local dominant castes only after the rampage and refused to file an FIR. This uncovers the complacent role of various agencies of the administration to safeguard the dalits under distress. The fire brigade says that they were prevented by the Upper castes to douse the fire. But the public present in the spot provide an opposite version of the same. The mainstream and local media is also underplaying the entire incident, portraying it as merely a conflict between two communities. It provides their modified version by suppressing the truth.
The loss suffered by the Ganda community is enormous and mostly irreparable. In the aftermath of the conflict the people have nowhere to go due to apathy of the administration and animosity of village high caste people. They are helpless now and we thought it desirable to bring the matter to your notice. We hope that you will take following necessary and immediate action by directing the state government and district administration.
The student community (United Dalit Student Front) of Jawaharlal Nehru University condemns the atrocities committed against the Ganda community in Odisha’s Lathore village by the upper caste Meher in the strictest possible terms. We therefore request you to take immediate actions into the following matters and direct the state and district administrations to do justice to the victims of caste violence:-
- The Odisha police must arrest all the people involved in the commission of atrocities on the dalits and all the erring officials and culprits should be booked under SC/ST prevention of atrocity Act.
- The Odisha administration should provide adequate relief and provide basic services for dignified life equivalent to the one they already had in their houses.
- Direct the state and district administration to provide security to traumatized dalits and ensures that such heinous act must not be repeated.
- Direct government to immediately rehabilitate and resettle the victims by.
A) Constructing brick/stone masonry house to all victimized families as per their requirements within one month.
B) Restore sources of livelihood by providing guaranteed economic security through monetary assistance (not less than 10 lakhs per person) and providing arable land.
C) Provide free food for at least one year initially.
- The children should be provided full cost of education and their maintenance. All students must be provided books and must provide assistance in obtaining their lost certificate and other documents like, ration cards, patta-parcha(Land Record) and insurance paper etc.
- Direct the government to provide guaranteed medical services and expenditure to all specially, old sick and pregnant women.
- A fact finding committee must be formed by you to visit the spot and make assessment of its social, economic and other losses to restore the lost dignity of dalits.
- Direct the state to ensure that all compensation reach the victims without delay.
- Direct the district administration to act in a good faith in the process of investigation.
- Direct the state government to ensure that the victims must not be harassed by implicating them by false allegation with the pressure of high caste people.
- Direct the administration to act promptly against all the culprits in general and particularly against the main masterminds of this heinous atrocity, namely:
(a) Ghasiram Aggarwal; (b) Jagannath Aggarwal; (c) Subash Aggarwal; (d) Ratan Lal Aggarwal; (e)Dulli chand Aggarwal; (f) Dhansingh Meher; (g) Jitendra Meher; (h) Harekrushna Bhainsal; (i) Prashanta Bohidar; (j) Kiran Bohidar; (k) Bale Meher; (l) Aniruddha Meher; (m) Hiradhar Meher; (n) Jayadev Meher (Budu); (o) Daya Meher; (p) Bharat Meher and others whose name figures in the original FIR.
All the concerned Students and United Dalit Student Front,
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU),
Chairman, Scheduled Castes Comission
Ministry of Social Justice
National Human Rights Comission,Government of India
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