Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Goa's Dhangars has no place for the final rest

Lack of crematorium forced Zore family to bury Bhagyashri’s body in jungle

by Rajendra Kerkar 

This TOI story is forwarded to this blog by Dr.Anthony Rodrigues who has expressed concern on this case and others, and currently litigating before Goa State Human Rights Commission seeking directions that there must be public crematoriums owned by the state and accessible to all. Matter is slotted to come up for hearing on July 21, 2014.

In many areas of Sattari, the public crematoriums are almost absent and this repeatedly forces the socially backward families to bury or burn their deceased relatives in the remote jungle or in the no man’s land of rivers.

When the dead body of Bhagyashree who had died on the evening of June 4, 2014 was handed over to the family members on June 5, after post mortem, they had to continue long search for a piece of land to bury the deceased body. The Dhangar, who are among the Other Backward Communities (OBC) of Goa’s society are landless since the generations and when a person is dead, it is difficult to get place in the crematorium maintained by the village community easily. “In Village Panchayat Keri, at Baherilwad under the Zilla Panchayat Fund, crematorium has been built. It is a public crematorium”, said Sameer Parrikar, the secretary of Village Panchayat. However, in this crematorium, a place for performing the last rites is not easily available and hence the corpse of Bhagyashree was taken 14km away and she was buried at the foot hill of the Vagheri far away from the human settlement.

“When a woman dies during the pregnancy, prevailing superstitions that her evil spirit will haunt and trouble the locality account to bury dead body outside the boundaries of village. Bhagyashree was buried at the foothill of Vagheri since there is no public crematorium nearby and she was four month pregnant when she was killed”, laments B.D. Mote, the social leader of the Dhangar community from Sattari.

He further said, “During the last week, the Deputy Sarpanch of Pissurle Vaibhavi Humane was died. Her body was cremated behind her residential house as no crematorium available for the Dhangar community in Sattari except Bhuipal. It is inhuman and painful that life after death of Dhangar too results in struggle.”

The Dhangar, being nomadic, never possessed land. They just roamed the mountains with no fixed home. Overwhelmingly today they are engaged in agriculture as landless cultivators and as casual labourers.

Director of Social Welfare Meena Naik Goltekar when contacted by TOI said, “In order to have funeral in decent manner of a deceased person belonging to the Dhangar we have introduced the Antya Sanskar Yojana and providing the financial assistance of Rs. 20,000 or actual cost whichever is less with the provision of essential certificates. We are also in process in solving various other issues of the community.”
In 2012, brother of Bhagyashree’s husband Baburao earlier died at Dhangarwada. While performing the last rites no crematorium or land was available. The deceased body was taken to Haddwada of Talekhol in Maharashtra where villagers too took objections when his body was cremated.

Dhaku Pavane, from Bhuipal of Sattari says, “The condition of our community, all over Goa is very pitiable, we are still landless. The area where our houses are situated is also not owned by us. So, we face lots of difficulties while doing the last rites of the deceased.”    

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