Being Untouchable

Above: Each of these families have stories of violence to tell, their homes looted and burnt. Many walked through several consecutive nights to flee here. Religious violence is often played out in the arena of rural Dalit and adivasi communities.

Here in Orissa, extremist Hindu nationalist groups had propagated anti-Christian hatred in these communities for years. This reached a climax in the brutal, mass attacks in 2008.

Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

Above: Manasi shows her baby, born in that tent just one week earlier, to her twin sons, Sunta and Namboa, while her ‘neighbour’ Mamata prepares a meal. These women and their families are among several who share a single tent in a displacement camp housing 45 Catholic families, which they have named ‘Shanti Nagar’, or ‘place of peace’.
These families had been accommodated in five separate places since being displaced by the communal violence in August 2008. When the relief camp in which they were accommodated previously was closed, they were told by the authorities that their village was still too hostile for them to return. Instead, they were housed in this cluster of tents, with no regular supply of food and no protection against the threats of more attacks which they continued to receive.

Kandhamal District, Orissa.

Above: A young girl, unbidden, thoughtfully brings an umbrella for us through the torrential monsoon rains. She belongs to a community of 165 Christian Dalit families who have settled here, just over the state border from Orissa in Andhra Pradesh, after having fled the 2008 communal violence in Gajapati district.
A Christian man, purporting to help, sold them this poor quality land in the midst of paddy fields, which is liable to flooding, without granting them full rights of ownership. Being outside Orissa, they are not eligible for help from the Gajapati District authorities.

Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh.

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