Kendrapara, Odisha- In a disheartening revelation from Kendrapara, Odisha, a crematorium operated by the municipal body has come under scrutiny for allegedly practicing caste discrimination even in the solemn act of performing last rites. The cremation ground, situated in the Hazaribagicha area, displayed a board explicitly stating it was reserved exclusively for Brahmins, sparking outrage on social media.
Kendrapara Municipality, the oldest civic body in the state, recently renovated the cremation ground with government funding. However, the controversial board, segregating the cremation ground based on caste, was erected after the renovation. Local residents reported that historically, only the bodies of individuals from a particular caste community were cremated at this location. Those from other castes were directed to an adjacent cremation ground, which had also undergone recent renovations.
Nagendra Jena, the district president of Odisha Dalit Samaj, expressed his astonishment upon learning about the discriminatory practice. He emphasized that the cremation ground had been exclusively used for one caste community for an extended period, indicating a clear violation of anti-discrimination laws by the municipal body. Jena called for an immediate halt to such discriminatory practices.
Jena further highlighted the pervasive caste-related issues in the region, asserting that discrimination persisted even in death. He noted the lack of awareness among the local population regarding their rights and the prevalence of outdated beliefs and superstitions. Despite efforts by organizations to raise awareness and address discrimination, there was a perceived lack of interest from the administration, and complaints often went unheard by the police.
Gayadhar Dhal, also involved in a mass movement against caste-based discrimination, acknowledged that such incidents were not uncommon in the area. While there was an alternative crematorium open to everyone, the fight focused on challenging the exclusive access granted to Brahmins at the cremation ground in question. Dhal revealed that an organization had filed a petition in the High Court, and a mass movement was underway to eliminate caste-based discrimination.
Dhal pointed out that discrimination was more pronounced in certain areas and stressed that such practices had diminished in the field of education. However, challenges persisted as some segments of the population, particularly Brahmins, continued to endorse these discriminatory practices. The community-led efforts aimed to bring about equality and inclusivity in the last rites, urging the administration to address the issue head-on.