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Story of Sita: Dalit scenario after 60 years of Freedom
"As Sita belongs to scheduled caste (Harijan), she was restricted to sit inside the Bhagabat Tungi with other students and, so, was sitting alone outside on the varanda. Every rainy day was a holy day for her as on those days only she was allowed inside."
N A Shah Ansari : August 17, 2007
In sixty years post-independence, India has seen lot of changes in various fields like science & technology, education, industry, health, politics etc. But still one can see the caste line brutality of middle age on the oppressed and down-trodden communities living in the society. The larger civil society of India is still oppressive & suppressive to the women, harijan and children. And many like Sita are forced to undergo a social AGNI PRIKSHA (Fire Test) to survive in this era of modernity.
After 60 years of Independence and 55 years of enforcement of Indian Constitution, the innocent girl of Gundi Village near Konark - ‘Sita’ had to sit on the Varandah and the steps of the village school for her primary education. She was not allowed to sit with her friends nor did she or her parents ever claimed for her right to sit among others as she belonged to Scheduled Caste parentage. She was virtually denied of the basic human rights in the school premises that is meant for man grooming.
5 years old Sita, youngest daughter of Basant Mallick of Gundi village, is a class I student of Gundi Project Primary School of Gop block in Puri District of Orissa, INDIA. Basant Mallick is a Harihan (Scheduled Caste) and thus is considered an untouchable in the village.
Gundi Project Primary School has been established under Sarba Siksha Abhijan since last 3 years. As the school building has not yet been constructed, this school runs in the village Bhagabat Tungi (the evening get together place of the village to discuss Bhagabat, the holy script.) As Sita belongs to scheduled caste (Harijan), she was restricted to sit inside the Bhagabat Tungi with other students and, so, was sitting alone outside on the varanda. Every rainy day was a holy day for her as on those days only she was allowed inside.
Niranjan, an activist of a campaign “Chala Gaon ku jiba” (Let us go to village) initiated by Young India - an NGO in Konark, came to know about Sita during his village tour and reported it to other campaigners. Acting upon this information given by Niranjan, a fact-finding team went to the Gundi village and came to know the reality as said above. The Team members discussed with the villagers regarding this injustice and the medieval practice and requested the dignified villagers to allow Sita in to the classroom in Bhagabat Tungi. But the villagers denied repeatedly.
On behalf of the Team, the author who happens to be the leader of ‘Young India’ team wrote to the State Human Rights Commission, Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, District Collector, Superintendent of Police regarding this matter and the media also played its role in highlighting the situation of Sita.
As the impact of Young India’s efforts, officials of District Administration and Education Department visited Gundi village, discussed with the villagers and convinced the villagers to allow Sita enter into her classroom, means into the Bhagabat Tungi.
Sita is now happy to share the classroom with her other mates.
Sita is smiling now.
The story of Sita is only a tip of the iceberg. The problem is still prevalent in Indian society.
The call of the time is, Let us make all Sitas free from such social stigma and make them Smile…………………………..
(Author is a leading Social and Media Activist working for empowerment of youth and people living in Rural Orissa)