The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Photo makes family pariah

Jamshedpur, Sept. 7: Even today Shanti Patar returned home with an empty pitcher and her family remained thirsty. She was denied water from the village tubewell.

Her husband, Sanatan Patar, spent the day looking for odd jobs. On August 21, his employer threw him out. The Patar family, residing at Murathakura village under Dhalbhumgarh block in Ghatshila subdivision, has been ostracised by the village headman for a photograph.

On August 18, Sanatan’s daughter Kalpana and her classmates, Fulmoni Hembram, Sugahi Murmu and Lalita Murmu, posed for a group photograph in their school compound.

In their mid-teens, the quartet knew their days in school were numbered and a group photograph would be the only tenuous link to the sunny days.

The fifth-grade students of the government-run Murathakura Middle School went ahead and got their photograph clicked. Kalpana’s brother Premchand arranged for a photographer and was personally present during the shoot.

However, Shyam Nath Murmu, nephew of the village headman, came to know about it. He contacted the cameraman, Rasanand Patar, and demanded the negatives back on the ground that clicking pictures of girls without their parents’ consent was not becoming. Premchand intervened and prevented Shyam Nath from seizing the roll. The latter threatened Premchand, a Class X student, with dire consequences.

Premchand and lensman Rasanand went to Shyam Nath’s house to know why exactly he wanted the negatives. They were accompanied by another youth, Sanjay Patar. An altercation ensued and the trio left Shyam Nath’s house in a huff.

The same evening, village head Vikash Murmu issued a notice in Murathakura saying a gram sabha meeting would be convened after two days.

The Patars were given a brief hearing, after which Murmu slapped a penalty of Rs 3,500 on Premchand for trying to break the village conduct code. He also fined Rasanand and Sanjay Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 respectively for colluding with Premchand. When the Patars expressed their inability to pay the fine, the gram sabha declared them outcast.

The headman, however, managed to procure the photograph and the negatives.

Murmu justified his decision saying Premchand and his friends had committed a “blunder” by photographing the girls. “Nothing would have happened had Premchand taken the permission of all the girls’ parents. After all, I have to uphold the honour of the village,” Murmu explained.

“Today they have dared to click the girls in their school uniform. Tomorrow they might force the girls to pose without clothes like models and film heroines,” Murmu went on.

According to the headman, the penalty was imposed to drive home the point that such a mistake should not recur.

Shanti said the village head has not only deprived them of basic amenities like water, but has also ensured that her husband loses his job.

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