A rationalist outfit in Chhattisgarh has launched a statewide campaign demanding that the practice of ‘social boycott’ be declared a crime and a law enacted against it.
“We have planned to stage dharna in all 27 districts of the state in support of our demand to introduce an Act prohibiting social boycott and ensure justice to the victims of this menace,” city-based Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti’s chairperson Dinesh Mishra said.
“So far we have covered capital Raipur and Bilaspur district headquarters where people who have suffered or are suffering the brunt of social boycott also took part in the dharna,” he said.
A Raipur-based ophthalmologist, Mishra has been engaged in the battle against social evils, including superstition and blackmagic, since the past two decades.
He had also spearheaded the movement which led to the introduction of Witchcraft Atrocities (Prevention) Act in 2005 in Chhattisgarh, to eliminate the locally known ‘Tonhi’ cult, (branding a woman as witch and witchcraft practitioner).
As per reply under RTIs, neither the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) nor the state government have statistics of social boycott cases despite a large number of individuals and families leading ostracised lives, Mishra said.
Surprisingly, a general survey by the samiti claimed that atleast 25,000 individuals or families were facing social boycott imposed by local caste/community groups or panchayat bodies due to several reasons, like inter-caste marriage, not following diktats of community heads and raising voice against orthodox beliefs, he said.
Such boycotted individuals and their families had to live in isolation in the village or society as no one is allowed to talk to them and not exchange anything with them.
They are not allowed to use hand pumps or ponds and are restricted from participating in village gatherings and procuring ration from local grocery shops, Mishra said, adding that many a times they are ostracised from their native place.
Moreover, community panchayats also impose heavy fines or physical punishment on the boycotted families to withdraw restrictions imposed on them, he said.