Human rights organisations visit a Tirunelveli village
The trouble over participating in a temple festival was simmering for six years
Dalits were prevented from going ahead with their celebrations as decided earlier
MADURAI: A fact-finding team comprising various human rights organisations visited Senthatti coming under the Chinnakovilaankulam police station limits near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli district on March 18, to assess situation in the village where two Dalits were killed by caste Hindus in a temple feud.
The team — writer A. Marx, K. M. Sivagurunathan, K. Palanichamy and Rajni of the People’s Union for Human Rights, S. Kochadai and S. Sankaralingam of People’s Union for Civil Liberties and G. Sugumaran, secretary, Federation for People’s Rights, Puducherry, and Lukman of Popular Front of India — conducted interviews with village heads, Deputy Superintendent of Police R. Balakrishnan and representatives of both the Dalits and caste Hindus.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, the team said that the background for the killings was the power-relations in terms of celebrating the Muppidathi Amman Temple festival, which was simmering for the last six years. During the festival, it was decided that every caste group of Senthatti could celebrate the festival separately on different dates. But when the turn came for Dalits, they were prevented from going ahead with their celebrations.
Against this background, E. Periya Madasamy, a Dalit of Senthatti, and his relatives attacked Kuruvammal over a minor issue. In a retaliatory attack, Periya Madasamy’s mother E. Karuppaayi sustained injuries and was admitted to Sankarankoil Government Hospital. Periya Madasamy’s father S. Eswaran (60) and his relative K. Paramasivan (29) were attacked when they were returning to the village in two-wheelers after visiting Karuppaayi in hospital.
The team looked into various documents such as minutes of the peace committee meetings and complaints related to the festival in the last two years. The team, in its findings, stated that the village was very backward on all fronts, and in the case of Dalits the condition was worse compared to rest of the communities.
Ever since the Devendrakula Velalars (Dalits) stopped doing community service to caste Hindus such as dealing with the dead bodies, they faced social ostracism from them by refusing to provide work in their fields and they stopped supply of goods to shops owned by Dalits. The Dalits were living in a perennial fear of attack from caste Hindus who outnumber them.
Male members of Yadava community have fled the village fearing arrest. However, police had taken action immediately and booked the persons involved under various sections, especially under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Untouchability was also practised in Pillaiyarkulam and Bandhapuli and hence the State should intervene immediately and announce these areas as communally vulnerable and bring them under the direct supervision of the Collector.
Dalits were few in number and also not politically assertive and the team recommended that a permanent political outpost must be installed with adequate police force to prevent incidents such as this in future.
The families of victims should be given a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh and a government job to eligible members of affected families. Officials, who conducted frequent peace meetings without taking any form of action to implement the decisions, must be transferred.
Adequate fund should be allotted to the village under the Special Component Plan for development. Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments must take over the Muppidathi Amman Temple.
The Hindu / 20.03.2009.