Petition filed in OHRC over torture of Dalit families in Puri


Bhubaneswar: A petition was filed in the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Tuesday over the physical and sexual assault of Dalit families and their debarment from the village by the upper caste people at Nuagan of Baghamunda under Bramhagiri police limits in Puri district.

Rights activist Pradipta Nayak has filed the petition and appealed to the commission to pass directions to collector and SP of Puri and Principal Secretary to SC/ST development department to conduct inquiries into the incident and submit reports within four weeks.

According to the petition, Sukanti Sethi (42), wife of Ashok Sethi belonging to Dalit community of Nuagan lodged a complaint about the physical and sexual assault, casteist remarks, theft of household articles, breakdown of houses and ostracism from the village by upper caste people on July 23.

In her complaint, Sukanti alleged that the upper caste people of the same village reached Dhoba Sahi at about 9.30 am and hurled casteist remarks at them. When Sukanti opposed, she was physically and sexually assaulted by them.

They tore apart her saree and forced her walked naked on the road. Ramamani Sethi (60) who came to the rescue of Sukanti was also brutally attacked by one of them, identified as Sukanta Mohapatra.

Pratima Sethi (25), an eight-month pregnant woman and daughter-in-law of Sukanti, also couldn’t escape from the barbarous attack. Out of brute and inhumanity, one of the attackers kicked her belly repeatedly to kill the eight months baby inside her womb, the petitioner alleged.

It is further alleged that the upper caste people warned the Dalits to vacate the place and village since the washerman were not washing their clothes. They broke their houses and burgled all the assets including motorcycles, bicycles, study materials of the children, documents and Rs 55,000 in cash.

The petitioner alleged that three Dalit families (washerman) have been stopped from fire & water and debarred from the village since months because of not washing the clothes on annual bartan (the age-old batter system) basis as a bonded labor.

In spite of the complaint, the local police and district administration did not take any action hereby denying justice to the Dalits. It was further alleged that all the homeless affected family members were sitting in dharna without taking food in front of Bramhagiri police station for justice while four physically injured victims are under treatment at the local hospital. Neither the police nor the administration listened to their plight, the petitioner alleged.

The petitioner alleged the incident is gross violation of right to life with dignity which is a fundamental right Article 21 of the Constitution, right to housing, right to protection from fare justice by the district administration of the lower caste Dalit washer man community. It also violated the SC/ST Protection Act, 1989 and NHRC guidelines on bonded labor system.

The petitioner urged to the commission to direct for interim financial compensation for their food and shelter to survive and recovered all their looted assets. Besides, he prayed to the commission to direct the district administration for the permanent settlement of victimized families with proper land and house under IAY/Biju Paka Ghara scheme.

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