Dalit girl crosses the hurdle
BHUBANESWAR - When 15-year-old Mamata Nayak of Narasinghapur village, 10 km from here, passed the matriculation examination, she became the first girl from the Bauri community to achieve the distinction.
She vowed to become a teacher so she could help other Dalit girls. But her dreams lay shattered today. Mamata is unable to pursue higher education because the "upper caste" have banned her from riding a bicycle through the village road to the college.
After her matriculation from Nilakantha High School, Mamata took admission at Madanpur College near Jatni. "I used to go to college on my bicycle. As Madanpur College is 7 km away from our village, it is not possible to walk the distance," she said. However, the upper caste people did not
tolerate a Dalit girl riding a bicycle through the village. "They warned me of dire
consequences," said Ghanashyam Nayak, the girl's father.
Revealing her experience in college, Mamata said there was no discrimination among students. "The students belonging to upper castes receive us warmly. I have never felt that I come from a poor, Dalit family. I was really happy at the college,"Mamata said.
Ironically, she was not allowed to touch her bicycle in her own village. "I have not done any harm to anybody. They (the upper caste people) should not deny higher education to me," she said.
Her father said he did not dare to send his daughter out of the house after the warnings. "I do not want to take the risk of waging a battle against the mighty upper caste, who are the majority in the village," he said. There are only 13 Dalit families at Narasinghapur against 300 upper
Nayak would not even go to the police or draw attention of the district administration. "Who will come to our rescue? Can the police protect us and our daughters from the wrath of these people?" asked Dayanidhi, another Dalit from the village.
The Bahujan Samaj Party's state president Akshya Mallick blamed chief minister Naveen Patnaik for the discrimination in the village. He said Mamata was not the lone girl victimised by the upper caste. As many as 1,941 cases relating to atrocities on Dalits have been registered in several police stations during 2004. "The government protects only the caste people," Mallick alleged.