Updated 20th November 2020 | 09:16 IST
FOURTEEN FAMILIES of the Gond tribe living during a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat district had to face social boycott for quite a fortnight as they might not afford to contribute Rs 200 each towards the celebration of Durga Puja within the village.
These families, who were badly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, had volunteered to pay Rs 100 each instead but it had been not considered.
Deprived of all facilities like buying ration and denied work, the families finally approached the district administration, which resolved the difficulty in the week.
On October 14, local puja organisers Sarwajanik Durga Puja Sanstha held a gathering in Lamta village of Balaghat where it had been decided that each one 170 families within the village will contribute Rs 200 each towards the celebration. But as many as 40 Gond families, many of who worked as migrant labourers and walked for days to succeed in the home after the lockdown, expressed inability to pay the cash.
Under social pressure, 26 of the families finally relented. The remaining 14 families offered to pay Rs 100 but it had been refused.
After the Durga Puja, another meeting was persisted November 3, when representatives of the village unanimously issued a diktat for ‘paani-tanga’ – no villager was allowed to talk to or visit the 14 families. They weren’t allowed to get ration and even the village doctor – a personal practitioner – was warned against treating them.
According to Dhan Singh Parte, a member of 1 of the affected families, none of the workers at the Lakdi depot, where his father worked as a labourer, were allowed to figure with him. “No one would be compared to my father at the depot. The wooden logs are heavy and other people usually add groups and carry them but my father was asked to figure alone during a corner, if at all,” said Parte.
For 39-year-old Lakshmi Wadkhade, who works as a labourer after her husband fell ill to defend her family of seven, paying Rs 200 was next to impossible. “I was in Allahabad trying to find work when my ill husband and daughter back home were boycotted. I had walked six days to return from Nashik after the lockdown. We had no money for days and starved until we got 5 kg ration,” she said.
She said they offered Rs 100, which was refused. “Even last year, my family was boycotted and that I had to return to figure within the city and send Rs 500 to my family to pay to the Sanghatan to urge the boycott lifted.”
As the boycott continued from November 3 to November 17, the families headed by Radhelal Madsole, Zilla president of Gond Samajh Mahasabha, submitted a memorandum to the police inspector at Lamta police headquarters. because the villagers remained undeterred after two rounds of meetings, the families approached the Balaghat Collector alongside the Superintendent of Police and therefore the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.