Biplab Kr Dey
TURA, July 5 – The remote village of Khardang Songma, bordering the state of Assam suddenly became the centre of focus after seven families of the total 96 households filed a complaint that they had been ostracised by the village council since 2005. The matter came to a head after a member of one of the ostracised families passed away and the village council disallowed his burial in the village.
While the ostracised families alleged that the ostracism was passed by the village council after they joined a different denomination of Christianity, the council claimed that the violation of the rules of the village was the reason for the families being ostracised.
According to the ostracised families, the problem began when they wanted to hold a public prayer meeting for their new denomination in March 2005. Allegedly, angry village members attacked the gathering with sticks, machetes and axes and tore down the pandal. The village council, however, strongly rejected the allegation.
A case was filed by the ostracised families regarding the incident at the Mendipathar Police Station in North Garo Hills after which the villagers called the seven families to appear before them in a meeting. However, the seven families did not appear citing fear. Immediately after their non- appearance, the villagers passed a resolution and decided to isolate the families in March 2005.
“We were not allowed to use products from the forest reserve in the village and we were also prohibited from burying our dead in the village graveyard. Whenever we tried to use products from the forests, the same would be seized. How are we to live when we can’t even bury our dead in our own village”, asked one of the ostracised victims.
The village Sordar, however, denied most of the allegations hurled against them. “This has nothing to do with religion or their changing of denomination. If it was religious how come the president of the village council is a part of their denomination”, he asked.
He further explained that the problems began when the seven families played loud music in the religious pandal, which the villagers objected to.
He, however, stated that the decision not to allow the families to bury their dead in the village was passed by the whole village as the families had not cooperated when asked. “They did not come to the meeting when asked and that led us to isolate them as a punishment”, said the Sordar.
The village council had set a fine of Rs 1,000 on the families to rejoin the village along with an apology. However, the matter remained unresolved since.
It came to the fore again after the denial of burying rights to a dead member of the seven families who were ostracised. A case was registered with Mendipathar PS around June 15 after which the police visited the village. The villagers were asked to immediately settle the matter within 30 days and allow the seven families to live normally.