Over 40 dalit houses torched in Bolangir

Bolangir: Over fourty thatched houses belong to dalits were set afire allegedly by upper caste people at village Lathore near Patnagarh in Bolangir district, police said today. 25 families belong to lower caste became homeless due to the group clash. The arson followed a clash between two dalit youths and as many youths of an upper caste family over an incident of theft of a shirt from a cloth store allegedly by a poor dalit boy on Sunday, Director General of Police Manomohan Praharaj said.

About 50 people set fire to the houses after driving out women and children. They even blocked roads to prevent entry of fire tenders to the area. "They attacked the fire tenders and damaged machinery and water pipes while preventing fire brigade personnel to douse the fire. Even the police personnel were not allowed to go inside when the houses were burning," Additional Superintendent of Police, Srikant Mishra said. Police also arrested 42 people in connection with the tragedy, he added.

Terming the incident as "tragic", Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said more than forty people were arrested and the victims were provided relief at temporary camps. "Appropriate action will be taken against the culprits involved in setting fire to dalit houses," he said.

About 120 policemen were deployed at Lathore village. Police were also deployed at the relief camps housing dalits, Praharaj said. Condemning the incident, Samajwadi Party demanded a compensation of Rs five lakh each to the affected families and stringent action against local police and district officials for "negligence of duty."

In a letter to the National Human Rights Commission, SP`s Odisha unit President Rabi Behera also sought registration of cases against the culprits under Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of atrocities) Act and immediate relief to the affected people. The party also urged the Commission to visit the village.