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Aditya Nath Jha, Hindustan Times
Kishanganj (Bihar), February 07, 2013
A panchayat in east Bihar’s Kishanganj district is in the eye of storm for allegedly ordering the socio-economic boycott of mahadalits — a special category created by the Nitish Kumar government comprising the poorest among dalits. Under the diktat — issued on Saturday by the Deshiatoli panchayat — shopkeepers have been barred from selling goods to mahadalits. Villagers have been asked not to employ them. Anyone flouting the order faces a fine of R25,000 and 50 lashes.

“Following the panchayat diktat, shopkeepers even stopped selling us food, forcing us to go hungry,” said Thumo Devi, a mahadalit woman.

On Monday, an FIR was registered at the Bahadurganj police station on Thumo Devi’s complaint. It named Deshiatoli mukhia Mohammad Anwar, sarpanch Mohammad Nazir and 13 others as accused, said Kishanganj superintendent of police Manoj Kumar. “Efforts are on to bring them to book,” he added. Deshiatoli mukhia Mohammad Anwar has denied ordering any boycott.

Television news channels, however, showed him saying that instead of the local mahadalits, a decision has been taken to engage outsiders for work. Anwar also told reporters that animals owned by mahadalits have damaged most of the crops raised by the villagers. When the farmers complained, these people threatened to implicate them in false ‘atrocities on SC’ cases, he said.

Over the last two months, this is the second diktat issued by a local panchayat that has raised eyebrows. In December, the Sundarbari panchayat in Kishanganj had barred women from using mobile phones—  issued after a rising incidence of elopement by girls.