ActionAid demands NHRC intervention to end violation of Dalit rights in Orissa

Posted On: 15-Feb-2010 07:21:00 By: Ch. Narendra Font Size:
New Delhi: Terming the continuing practice of caste-based bonded labour and untouchability in Orissa’s Puri district as blatant violation of human and citizenship rights, Action Aid and community members today demanded an immediate action.
The call came a day before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the apex watchdog for rights violation, is slated for a hearing and has summoned the Puri District Collector, Secretary Panchyati Raj and appellants from the marginalised community.
At a press conference in New Delhi, the members from the washer community narrated the blatant violations that have been unfolding due to continuation of a discriminatory caste-based practice.
“My entire family, including women, is often beaten up by upper caste henchmen because we have mustered the courage to leave the bondage of washing clothes for the upper caste for free,” said Kallu Sethi.
The 45-year-old victim, who will depose before the NHRC on November 16th, is a resident of Shantipur Village in the Puri district.
“I and my brothers have been boycotted socially and economically. When my father passed away, we were not even allowed to carry out the last rites. My home was razed to the ground. Attacks happen often and the food is taken away” he added.
As per the dominant caste, Kallu’s ‘fault’ has been that his family applied for land under a government scheme for landless dalit community. They got small pieces of land and wanted to grow their own food. This has not gone down well with the powerful in the village.
“Despite over thousand members from the ‘dhobi’ community filing complaints, and a man from the community sitting on protest for over a year outside Puri’s District Magistrate, no action has been taken,” said Baghambar Pattanaik from the Odisha Goti Mukti Andolan, who has been driving this struggle in the NHRC and local media.

“The practice of forcing a particular community to continue washing clothes for the dominant castes in lieu of few rupees or few kilos of grains for an entire year is not only inhuman, but also violation of Section 2(g) of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Its fallout of social and economic boycott is violation of Article 23 of India’s Constitution,” said Parvinder Singh, Head of Communications ActionAid India.