(Prasanta Patnaik, Bhubaneswar)
In a manner of vigilante justice, four persons were brutally beaten to death by a mob in Baripada on 10 October 2010. They were of the Lodha community, known as thieves, the police say.
According to reports, a section of inhabitants of the village of Gunjasahi under Sadar police limits, Baripada in the district of Mayurbhanj caught the Lodhas on Sunday night and a mad mob tortured them on Manday to the extent of killing four of the group of seven in their captivity.
“Our investigation shows that the local villagers caught the thieves and beat them when they were returning after committing robbery,” Mayubhanj DSP Premaranjan Parida said.
“The local people caught the thieves near the forest and beat them up,” an eyewitness said.
According to the villagers, they were having sleepless nights due to series of robbery incidents in the region. As no step was taken to nab the miscreants, they decided to catch the Lodhas themselves and punish them.
Lodhas have been in the focus of anthropologists and social activists.
If any that revolted against the British in India first, it was the Oriyas and amongst the Oriyas, the Tribals. Lodha community was one of them. They were ruthlessly suppressed.
They are identified by their surnames like Nayek, Mallick, Digar, Sardar, Bhokta, Kotal, Dandapat, Bhunya etc. These titles reflect social responsibility. The Lodhas claim that they are Sabars by clan.
Drastically deprived of their livelihood, with no alternatives, they took to criminal ways of life and were subsequently branded as a criminal tribe. But they are in reality the uprooted rebels
Since the Lodhas have no landed property and they have been branded their tribe as ‘Criminal’ by the British, the Government, even after independence, continues to brand them as “Criminal Tribe”,instead of honoring them for the revolt they had pioneered against the foreign invaders. They are left with no alternative than to become pretty thieves and earn their bread by stealing.
Taking into account the valor they had displayed against the British invaders, which is traditionally their forte, the government in free India should have helped them with providing honorable employment in the Defense Force. Being forest dwellers, they could even have been employed to guard the forests and in conservation thereof. But they are abandoned and no step has ever taken to provide them with any regular livelihood. As a result, they are not accepted in the society to live with honour.
But sadly, our media have glorified their killing instead of demanding to punish the murderers who had no right to give them death sentence.
If the locals are believed, marginal items like a mosquito-net, a few utensils, and two pieces of toilet soaps etc. worth at best Rs 500/- were recovered from them.
We live in a State where we honour the Crorepati politicians, bureaucrats, and engineers etc. who loot the State and give death sentence to hungry tribals.