By Ejaz Kaiser | HT Media – Mon 4 Jun, 2012

Raipur, June 4 — If you thought the caste system comes alive only during elections and weddings, think again. Nearly 300 km from Raipur, the stigma of a “menial” job is threatening to blow apart the lives of 22-year-old Pinki Rajak and her family.

A member of the dhobi samaj (washermen community) in Koriya district‘s Bardiya village, Pinki invited the wrath of her people for accepting the job of a sweeper at a school.

The community has handed the family an ultimatum: Forget the job or be ostracised for 60 years. Quitting the job is not an option for Pinki.

Repeatedly ill-treated by her husband, she had returned home to her parents. But her father Budhulal Rajak, who has a small cycle repair shop, already has three daughters, a son and wife to support.

Pinki got this job after running from pillar to post for a long time. Then the community struck – notwithstanding Budhlal’s position as a regional secretary of the samaj. Pinki’s husband Kapil Dev was told that he would not be allowed to live with her till she quits the job.

“No one can live without money. Why should the caste system be tied to employment now?” asked Pinki. Her family stands solidly behind her. “Instead of appreciating her efforts, the community is bent on punishing us,” said Budhulal. “Pinki should not quit the job,” said her mother Rambai.

But they are yet to gather the courage to lodge a complaint with the police. “We are looking for a compromise,” said Budhulal. The police are reluctant to intervene. “How can we take action without a complaint?” Koriya SP Abhishek Pathak asked.