A villager has approached the Orissa Human Rights Commission after being ostracized by his community for 15 years following a trivial quarrel his sister had with a woman over a sari.
Bhikari Khuntia, who belongs to the Nanda Gopal community, had "appealed" for reconciliation, but he was ignored.
In 2003, when his mother died, Bhikari again approached the village elders to help him with the funeral. He was told to pay a penalty of Rs 501 for "re-entry" to the community. "I requested them to accept Rs 101. They refused," he said.
But the "punishment" did not end there. The villagers did not allow the barber to help Bhikari perform the last rites. He was then attacked by youth during the burial and finally arrested by Kuchinda police after the villagers lodged a case against him.
Three years later, his elder daughter Rita was allegedly raped by some villagers and the community pressured him to withdraw the case. When he refused, his house was attacked.
Harihar Mahakud, the president of Dimirimunda's Nanda Gopal community, said: "He has defied us time and again. So there is no question of taking Bhikari back to fold till he has not agreed to our conditions."
The community, he says, has published a "constitution" and Bhikari is being punished accordingly. But the penalty is not limited to Bhikari. People from other villages have been served "notices" by the Dimirimunda Nanda Gopal community when they have interacted with the Khuntias.
Kuchinda police officer Narayan Nayak admitted that Bhikari as well as members of the community have lodged several complaints. "Our role is limited to legal action. But we have tried for a compromise between both parties unofficially, but failed."
The social boycott has taken a toll on Bhikari. Although he owns six acres of land, he cannot cultivate it and has leased it out to someone from another village. His sister Dukhni, 38, is still unmarried; younger daughter Resna, 16, has dropped out of school.
But he is still determined. "I want to go back to the community but not before I teach my tormentors a lesson," said Bhikari.