ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Price of Dalit Assertion

On the Burning Down of Dalit Houses in Lathore, Odisha

In Odisha, especially in the western part, dalits face a peculiar situation. On the one hand, they suffer the indignity of the age-old caste system and on the other, they are perceived by tribal communities as "exploiters", and at times, bear the brunt of their fury too. Such a perception accentuates the hatred against dalits and also seems to justify attacks. This fi eld study in Lathore, a village in the block of Khaprakhol of Balangir district of Odisha, demonstrates how in such a hostile atmosphere, even minor incidents involving individual dalits lead to horrendous consequences.

While studying the conditions of dalits in Odisha in 1978, the Harijan Sevak Sangh observed:

Out of the surveyed states, Odisha is one where public places were not accessible to the Harijans in all the surveyed villages, although the violent incidents are not reported in equal measures [Italics ours]. The reasons may be the general backwardness and power­lessness and also the low level of awareness of the Scheduled Castes, who continue to bear the social injustices perpetrated on them.

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