Fact finding report on Odisha caste fire: 001 OD 2012
The fact finding was conducted to ascertain the facts in the Odisha caste fire case where nearly 50 Dalit houses at Lathor in Odisha were burnt by upper caste people.
A small boy’s incident took the shape of caste violence in Lathor, Balangir district of Odisha on 22/01/2012. The incident started in the morning at 9.00am at Lathor, a 10th class dalit boy (by caste Ganda) Ganesh Suna used to wear 2shirts every day as a fashion but on this particular day he was wearing only a shirt and went to the shop to bought a shirt at 9.00 am and wear it over that shirt, but shopkeeper Bharat Meher and his brother Daya Meher abused Ganesh as thief and beat him with iron rod. At the mean time Gouranga Suna a 54 year old man was standing near the shop tried to stop Daya and Bharat to beating and said if he (Ganesh) has stolen the things we will pay for that but it is not good to beat him. By listening this Daya Meher and Bharat Meher beat Gouranga Suna too with their footwear. It was happened at 10.00am according to the local people. Then the old man reported to his family members, and went to the nearest police station with Ganesh to register FIR but on the way the shopkeepers again beat Ganesh and Police also did not accept the FIR. At the mean time there were 4/5 youth from Dalit (Ganda) community and there occurred a fight between the dalit and shopkeepers. And Daya purposefully did drama of being serious and admitted at Patnagarh Hospital and issued a fake report of being serious and took admission in the District Head Quarter Hospital at Bolangir and spread rumor as being treated at Burla medical in Sambalpur. But the fact is that he was being admitted in the Bolangir Hospital on 23rd of January and relief on 26th January, according to the medical report.At 12.30 they (upper castes) organized a meeting to smash the dalits (Ganda) from the village and gave their decision a final shape at 3.00pm. With weapons (sword, tangi, knives, bombs sticks,) and muscles power a huge mob (more than 500 people) of so called upper caste attacked the Ganda Vasti. First they burnt the house of Jitendra suna a lecturer cum social activist.
The people of upper caste lucked jitendra’s family inside their home and threw petrol and kerosene over the home and burnt the house. The innocent women and children were shouting for help. A little boy of his family was outside home, so he tried to rescue them and somehow the entire family member got outside and save their life. The people of upper caste were taking liquor provided freely by a Marwadi named Ghasiram Agrawal and they were inspired and followed by Jagannath Agrawal who provided petrol to them without any pay. At the time of burning they were shouting like “we will not give up any Ganda, they bastard are becoming very proud, we will kill them“. Gradually with a horrible notion they burnt all the houses nearly 40 in numbers. Meanwhile they had stopped all the communication to Lathor. They had blocked the road communication by burning tires on the street and a big trunk.
This is the fact matter occurred at the beginning of the incident and in this way feeling of castes hatred aroused in the heart of upper caste (meher & others) and upper caste take the advantage of being majority became heavy over the dalit minority.
Though the police have been informed before at 3.00pm in the evening while the incident was going to start, police did not take any instant action. The IIC of Khaprakhol police station Narbart kiro reached at the spot at 7.00pm in the evening but he failed to stop the violence. He got fear and ran away to few meters distance and saw the incidents. This was the role of police at the time of incidents.
At 10.30 pm a fire brigade from Patnagarh reached at the spot to control the fire but the violent people of upper castes beat them and burnt their vehicle. The police force from Bolangir reached at the spot at 11.45pm but at that time 40 houses were already burning like a fire camp. Gold ornaments and money were stolen by them from their home. They abused women and young girl as well according to the statements of victims.
Second fire brigade reached in the morning from Titlagarh and Khariar Road but not having the water tank, so they did not able to stop the fire tills the morning.
Dalit tried to save themselves from this brutal violence and run way from their home. Some dalit men went to the forest, some went to the nearest villages and the women saved themselves in other untouchable Ghasia Vasti (Scavenger) and saved their life. In this way the upper castes created fear among dalits.They burnt all the certificates of the students and other kind of valuables documents.
The Incident became very serious goes up to a level where no one able to stops the upper castes; even they beat to a local news reporter of Kanak TV and threatened to The Dharitri reporter Bhubaneswar Barik.
The burning goes up to more than 6th hour according to OTV news channel but fact is that it’s more than 6 hour from the dalit people report and eyes witness. Nobody has courage to off the burning so everything changed in to ashes. There were no single commodities and food grains which were left out for their uses until the case is registered and fire brigade stop the fire. Police reached there at mid night and tried to protect the victimized dalits people.
On the 23 January, in the morning police high authority DIG reached to the spot with another battalion and ordered the fire brigade commandos to stop the fire. When fire was stopped at that time there was nothing which can be collected for their use. Then after the government following the case, in the late morning at 10.00 or 11.00 am the administrative officers Tahasildar and BDO reached to investigate the incident. The officers took the homeless dalits in to a Govt School and provided some kind of reliefs and distributed some Biscuits, Shawls and Chuda. The distributed things are useless which cannot be eaten which are low in quality. The rehabilitation programme taken by government is insufficient. And all homeless dalits accommodate in a Govt school of the particular village. The victimized and homeless dalits people need proper rehabilitation, adequate help and emotional support.
Dalit are lost their houses, property, wealth, clothes bikes, books and they are hopeless and homeless. More than 4 crores wealth has been lost. Whole Dalit Vasti is being burnt, where more than 50 fifty families were living, there is nothing to collect from the home, and they lost everything. The children women and men are displaced from the home. The rehabilitation programme which is taken by the government is insufficient; all the people are rehabilitated in a government school. Imagine the situation is very pathetic, people are crying, such a brutal attacked by the caste Hindu nobody can think on the issue even Police and administration are unable to give justice.
-On 23/01/02 the police arrested 42 accused of this case.
-On 24/01/2012 the women from upper castes did protest against the arrest of their husbands. The police arrested them too.
-On 25/01/2012, there was a huge rally of Ganda samaj near about 2500 people were marched to the collector office and met collector of Bolangir S.N Dey and gave a memorandum. Immediately the district collector made a committee to control the situation with the local educated people from Ganda castes and Meher castes formed a “Peace Committee which is an unnecessary committee because victims need justice not “Peace”.
Govt distributed 1 lakh rupees from the chief minister relief fund to each victim’s family as matter of compensation.
Since 27/01/2012 DSP Panda has been registering 161 statements from the victims.
The present situation is so pathetic. From the last four days justice is being denied to victims, rally by rally and protest by protest are happing in all around the districts of Odisha? Still victims are poorly rehabilitated by the Govt. Still they are in same Govt School. Govt officials are distributing small amount of reliefs. Intentionally Govt is not taking any serious step to provide any adequate facilities. Either Govt is assuring or doing something…. They are playing with the emotion of dalits who are being victimized. It is just like a Drama to some administrative and upper caste people.
-On 31/01/2012 some social activists met with district collector and made inquiry about the rehabilitation process and requested to arrest main accused of the incident Jagannath Agrawal and Ghasiramn Agrawal and seal their petrol pump and liquor shop respectively.
-On 1/02/2012 a committee of 9 students from Delhi reached Lathor for fact finding and interviewed the victimized people.
Time by time different dalits organization were visiting the palace and giving condolence to them and providing reliefs.
Innocent women, children and men were having with same dress from last four days, the soap, oil, and all sanitation facilities are far from them. The feelings and emotions of victims dalits have replaced into sorrow and suffering. All the relief work are insufficient to the victims people, still people do not have proper clothes to save themselves from winter or cold in the night time people sleep with cold without bed.
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Tags: Caste fire, Dalit atrocity, Odisha caste Atrocity