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When people turned a blind eye: Story of a Dalit woman

Monday September 17, 2012 01:09:18 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

Chennai: India is moving at a breath neck speed and there is an all round development taking place in every sphere of activity in the country. However, when it comes to the social reality, nothing has changed in the Indian villages. The brute compartmentalization of human on the basis of caste and centuries old traditions still rules the roost. It seems Bollywood movies have no sobering influences and often we come across stories from the rural landscapes that are spine chilling.

Here is a true story of a dalit woman who was tied in a pole and was disrobed, severely beaten, her face painted black and her head tonsured, all done in full public view, but none come to her rescue. The poor lady begged for mercy, but the hatred and vengeance was all pervasive had she had to face the humiliation all alone.

This horrible incident took place in Jayaghanta village under Dhama police station in Sambalpur district of Odisha. The dalit woman Subidha Buda (45) was punished because her 18 year old younger daughter eloped with a local boy Sudam Mahanand, who later died in a freak accident.

The accident took place on August 12, when Subidha’s daughter and Sudam were traveling in a bus from Sambalpur to Jharsuguda a suitcase kept on the overhead luggage carrier of the seat down on Sudam's head. This left him unconscious and was declared brought dead at the government hospital in Jharsuguda.

When the news of Sudam’s death reached the village, his relatives became boisterous. They assembled other villagers and staged a protest with the body. They blocked the main road and demanded a probe into the incident and the arrest of the culprits. They went to Subidha’s house and accused her of murder and also asked her and the family to leave the village

Terrified by the developments, Subidha and her daughter fled from Jayaghanta village to another nearby village called Baunsara, where her elder daughter lived. Her aged grandmother was left behind to look after the goats and sheeps in the house.

As soon as they left the village, one person named Khatu Khandayat took advantage of the situation and found it convenient to steal two of their goats. When Subidha came to know about it she returned home to bring back the goats.

As she went to get her goats from Khatu Khandayat’s goat shed, he became angry and dragged Subidha to the main road and punched her. Subidha tried to run for cover and looked for shelter in one Daktar’s house, but his wife refused and drove her out.

Subidha then tired to seek refuge in a nearby local club house. However, this place too did not provide her any security. She was dragged out and was tied to a pole in front of the club house. She was disrobed and beaten, face painted black and her head tonsured.

All this happened in front of the women folk of the village. They not only watched this brutal act but also kicked and punched her. They even helped in the tonsuring her head. The poor woman begged for mercy but none felt pity on her.

This is a pithy story of oppression against the dalits and minorities that quite often happens in some places in the country. The police made the arrests on the basis of a FIR filed by Subidha in Dhama police station. Ten persons were arrested on the basis of the victim’s complaint. Cases were registered against eighteen persons and efforts were on to nab the others involved.

In this particular story there was no angel of caste or class struggle. So no case was registered under the SC/ST Atrocities Act as both the complainant and the accused belonged to the same caste. Nonetheless, it portrays a very ugly facet of the rural society, generally thought to be an oasis of peace.

India villages are cluster of house which is neatly segregated into areas where a particular caste inhabits. Each locality within the village is an island on its own. The upper cast is concentrated in one part of the village and other localities are demarcated according to the caste hierarchy. The dalits normally do not find a space within the village and are settled in a near distance. This stark reality is pervasive in the entire rural landscape of the country.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at





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