DHENKANAL: Tension prevailed in Kantiokateni village under Tumusingha tehsil as the district administration made a fresh attempt on Friday to resolve an ongoing deadlock between upper-caste residents and some Dalit families. The Dalits had allegedly been ostracised by the upper caste families in the village since April. According to reports, on April 6, some Dalit girls had plucked flowers from an area belonging to the upper castes in the village. On finding out, one Seshadeva Behera chased them and hurled abuses at them. The incident triggered a confrontation between the two communities. At least 50 Dalit families have since been allegedly ostracised by the upper caste families.
Dalit community members Jyoti Nayak and Prakash Chandra Nayak alleged that they are being barred from village facilities like getting work or buying from village shops. Since most of them have no land and are sharecroppers using lands of upper castes, the latter have refused to allow them to come to work. “We approached a landlord to allow us to grow crops on his land but he refused fearing threats by his community members. As we have been debarred from village shops, we have to go to another village to get our essentials. A fine of Rs 1,000 is being charged from all those who help us in any way. Even the sarpanch has denied us work under MGNREGS,” they complained.
While police had mediated a compromise in April, the lower caste families claim that the ostracisation has been continuing despite the agreement. Tumusingha Inspector in-charge Anand Kumar admitted that the agreement in April did not have any effect. “This time, we hope for the best as a bigger meeting will be held in the village in two days’ time,” he said.
On Thursday, a second agreement between both parties was attempted in the presence of police officials. Another meeting was held on Friday in presence of SP Anupama James, Kamakshyanagar Sub Collector Bishnu Prasad Acharaya, tehsildar, and senior police officials. “We are trying to settle the dispute and hope it will be resolved soon. If not, the law will take its course,” the SP said.