About 25 Dalit families were turned away from three shelter homes on the day of Cyclone Fani in Odisha, on May 3, according to media reports.
In a video by Anil Kumar Mallick, a member of the Bahujan Student and Youth Front that has now gone viral, people from Baripada village of Patali panchayat claim that 25 Dalit families, about 85 people, were denied shelter.
Cyclone Fani that made landfall in Odisha on May 3, wreaked havoc in Puri and Bhubaneshwar where the death toll has reached 64, according to media reports. Apart from the destruction that cyclone caused to the infrastructure of the state, more than 12 lakh people were evacuated to safer locations.
A day before on May 2, hearing the news of cyclone, members of the Dalit community in Baripada village approached a nearby school for shelter, but were denied entry because of their casts, reported the BBC. However, after persistent request, an isolated room with Asbestos Cement Sheet roof – unlike Pakka houses in which upper caste people were staying, was provided.
However, other Dalit families were not that fortunate. A small two-room school, another shelter in Baripada hamlet, denied entry to a few Dalit families. The shelter was already occupied by upper caste people and the Dalit families were not allowed to enter, Anil Kumar Mallick was quoted telling the Scroll.in.
As per reports, some families were denied shelter in a tin-roofed house in the same hamlet. Similarly, at a shelter house in Patali, 4km away from Baripada, the Dalit families were asked to leave about an hour after they were allowed to enter.
Unable to find places to protect themselves from the cyclone, which uprooted everything on its way- with a wind speed of more than 200 km/h, all Dalit families including elderly and children took shelter near an uprooted banyan tree, as per media reports.
“All doors were closed, we requested but no one gave us shelter. They denied entry because we are Dalits,” said Binita Gochhayat to the BBC.
As of now, the Banyan tree has been their shelter for more than a week. The families only had raw coconut to eat on the first night of the cyclone Fani on May 3 and have gone without food since then, reported the BBC.