Football match dispute triggers caste violence in western Odisha
On August 27, the simmering tension snowballed into violence and several members of the Dalit community were allegedly injuredUpdated: Aug 29, 2020, 15:45 IST
A dispute over a football match triggered caste violence in western Odisha’s Subarnapur district and left three people critically injured after members of a local Other Backward Class (OBC) community allegedly attacked a group of Dalit villagers.
The clashes first began with disagreement over the football match on August 23 between the Dalit and OBC village teams and led to a social boycott of Dalits and violence four days later, alleged Sanjib Suna, a resident of Kharjura village where the incident took place.
“After the dispute, whenever we would go to buy food, they would call us untouchable and ask us to not come to the village market. This happened because we protested that they changed the format of the tournament from round-robin to knockout when the Dalit team lost one match,” said Suna.
On August 27, the simmering tension snowballed into violence and several members of the Dalit community were allegedly injured. “I had gone to buy some oil when I was attacked with sticks, rods and stones. I suffered a fracture in my hand and my head,” said Prasadi, a local villager.
The police confirmed the clashes and said an FIR was registered. “The investigation is on and we are talking to all parties,” said Lokeshwar Sahoo, the inspector in-charge of Sonpur police station. Members of the OBC
community rejected the charges and said they will file a police complaint.
The village chief, Dilip Seth, said he organised a meeting of the two communities and hoped that peace would return to the area soon. “I have spoken to all leaders and hope to end the dispute soon,” he added. Asked how a football tournament was organised at a time coronavirus-induced restrictions are in place across the state, he said the sport was held as part of a local festival and it would be investigated.
Experts said the caste divisions in western Odisha were old and deep. “There have been several cases of caste atrocities in the region and we can see assertion by Dalits has led to more violence,” said Jadumani Mahanand, a lecturer at OP Jindal Global University.