Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Boudh, Apr 4:
Despite its tremendous accomplishments in science, digital revolution, Mangalyaan and what not, India still lives in the middle ages if this incident in Boudh district of Odisha is anything to go by.
Abandoned by his family and ostracised by the community for nothing more than sharing a meal with a dalit family, septuagenarian Laxman Bagarti from Rajing village under Puruna Cuttack panchayat in Harabhanga block in Boudh district died at the district headquarters hospital here on Friday.
So grave was the ‘sin’ of this old man that his family did not relent even after he died. His four grown up sons neither visited him at the hospital while he was being treated nor cremated his body after his death. Uncared for in life, Bagarti was left uncared for after death too.
He was left to fend for himself despite having four married sons and wife at home. He was living the life of a nomad for years before dying.
Finding no way out, he took to ‘Naam-Sankirtan’ (Devotional singing in praise of Lord) as a wandering minstrel. He used to tour neighbouring villages and fed himself with alms given by people.
While life was hard ever since he was ostracised, things became more difficult for Bagarti after he fell sick in a neighbouring village a few months back, probably due to malnourishment. Graciously enough, the villagers dropped him at his abode, but he was not allowed him in by his family. There had obviously been no change of heart in his family members even after all these years.
The frail man had to take shelter in the veranda of his ‘sweet home’ in which he must have invested his sweat and blood besides loads of emotions.
With his mobility restricted due to deteriorating health, Bagarti took refuge in a fellow villager’s veranda.
Following publication of a report in the leading Odia daily Sambad on March 30, the district administration first admitted him to the government hospital at Puruna Cuttack and later shifted him to the district headquarters hospital due to his worsening condition. But this belated attention could not save him from death.
After Laxman’s death, Harabhanga tehsildar visited Rajing and informed his family of his death. But none of his four sons, who are married and earning, or his wife turned up to collect Laxman’s body from the hospital. After waiting till 2 PM on the same day, the district administration made arrangements for his funeral. NAC employees in the presence of the tehsildar and police buried the body of Laxman at the graveyard.
A few years back, Laxman had asked his wife for food on reaching home from his fields. For some reason, the couple ended up in a quarrel. Laxman in a fit of anger threatened to take food at a Dalit’s place, which he did. Since then Laxman was ostracized by his family and his community.