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Orissa ’silent’ on dalit, tribal persecution

Lawmakers accuse state government of failing to protect minority groups

Indian church leaders at a sit-in demonstration in New Delhi for Dalit Christians’ rights (File photo) Indian church leaders at a sit-in demonstration in New Delhi for Dalit Christians’ rights (File photo)
  • Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
  • India
  • January 24, 2011
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Several legislators in Orissa have accused the state government of failing to implement laws designed to prevent the persecution of low caste and tribal people.

Perpetrators in Orissa go unpunished because the state government is not serious in implementing the federal laws, said Bhajaman Behera, an independent legislator.

Behera was among eight members of the Orissa legislative assembly who met with civil rights activists on Jan. 20 in Bhubaneswar, the state capital.

Behera told the activists to document all crimes to help legislators take the matter up in the assembly and force the government to take appropriate steps.

The federal government has enacted two laws to help dalit and tribal people. A 1955 law banned the practice of treating people as untouchables and another passed in 1989 was aimed at preventing violent crimes against these communities.

Praful Maji, another legislator, told the meeting that the Orissa government has no intention of eliminating the caste system because it wants to keep its supporter base intact.

Dalit and tribal people are being “humiliated” as the government continues to ignore them, added Maji, who represents tribal-dominated Sundergarh.

Amit Kumar Nayak, a rights activist said Orissa is the “most backward” state in India with dalit and tribal people comprising 40 percent of its people.

The administration has acknowledged that 19 of the state’s 30 districts are “prone to persecution,” he noted.

Another activist, Pradeep Nayak (no relation), said Orissa recorded 6,694 acts of persecution against dalit and tribal people between 1995-2007, but the courts only dealt with 734 cases, with a conviction rate of 11.3 percent.

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