Vikash Sharma

Despite tall claims of massive awareness, people are still being subjected to humiliation and are ostracised for not being able to follow age-old traditions. Such incidents are being reported at regular intervals in Odisha which has now become a matter of concern.

In one such incident, a woman is now forced to live in the open under a temporary arrangement after she was allegedly oscraticed by the villagers for not being able to throw a feast as part of her son’s last rituals. The incident has been reported from Darkhala village in Keonjhar district.

It is alleged that the woman, identified as Jana Hembrum, was asked to give sheep and handia (local fermented liquor) by the villagers. Hembrum had lost her husband three years back and recently her son died after he sustained burn injuries accidentally while sitting near a bonfire.

The villagers had demanded sheep and handia as part of the last rite rituals of her son. Hembrum was later ostractised after she expressed her helplessness in arranging the same due to financial constraints.

After the plight of the woman was telecast by OTV, Anandpur Sub-Collector and SDPO met Hembrum and provided some financial assistance.

On getting the financial assistance, Hembrum stated that she would now be able to return to the village and her home as she will now give a feast as demanded by the villagers.

“Some officials had come and gave me Rs 2,000. But i purchased a sheep at Rs2100 and will have to purchase some other articles so that I can return home,” said Hembrum who does not have a permanent shelter.

Social activist, Jagdananda said,“The administration needs to take stern action to eradicate such social evils from the society.”

Some locals are demanding that the administration needs to enroll her in some welfare schemes including widow pension.

Anil Sethi, Sub-Collector said, “As it is an age old tradition, we will take steps so that such practice ends after prior consultation and awareness. We will take steps to sanction widow pension and allot a house to the woman under the existing scheme.”

Not only Anandpur, similar cases of ostracisation over caste also prevail in other parts of the state. A man had to suffer as nobody came forward to carry the body of his wife to the crematorium.

The mistake of the man, identified as Anil Pradhan of Bolangir, was that he married a woman belonging to another caste. Even Anil’s parents did not attend the last rites fearing ostracisation by the villagers. Later, Anil completed the last rites of his wife with the help of some social activists.

(Reported by Muna Singh)