The three families belong to the washerman community
The three families belonging to the washerman community were allegedly ousted from the village by upper caste people for refusing to perform customary services, such as washing clothes of villagers in lieu of 15 kg of paddy.
They had been residing outside their villager for over one year.
Ahead of the election, the villagers expressed their desire to exercise their franchise. However, they could not venture into their village fearing attack from upper caste people.
“We have taken up the case of Dalit families with district administration as well as Odisha Human Rights Commission. But no assurance was given to these families on their security during polling,” said Baghambar Patnaik, Dalit rights activist.
Mr. Patnaik moved National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, a day before the election. The NHRC acted very swiftly and issued a direction to State government to give protection to these families for casting their votes.
“Within one hour, A.K. Parashar, focal point human rights division, NHRC, contacted Lalit Das, Special Secretary to Government, Home Department, and instructed Anup Kumar Sahoo, Puri Superintendent of Police,” the activist said.
A team of Special Police Force, led by Tapan Das, inspector-in-charge of Gadishagoda police station, escorted the voters to their polling booth at Birakesharipur where they exercised their franchise and returned.
According to Mr. Patnaik, as per custom members of Dalit families carry one box of about 60 kg of articles on their heads and accompany the worshipping Danda artists from village to village in April for about two weeks without wages.
“When one of them, Surendra Sethi of Birakesharipur village, refused to carry the load due to old age, he was assaulted. When a complaint was lodged with the Gadishagoda police station against the assaulters, he was driven out of the village followed by all the members of the three families in one year at different times,” the rights activist said.
- They were sent out of the village for refusing to perform some services
- NHRC took notice and ordered protection to the families
- Read more here– http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/dalits-vote-under-police-protection/article5924684.ece