MADURAI: A fact-finding team of various human rights organisations visited Uthapuram in the Peraiyur taluk of Madurai district on October 25 to assess the situation in the wake of allegations of police atrocities against the Dalits.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, the team said that initially they were denied permission on the basis of the prohibitory order clamped under Section 144 of the Cr. P. C. after a clash between two communities on October 1 and 2. The team moved the High Court, seeking permission to enter the village. It was granted permission on October 20 by judge G. Rajasuriya to conduct interviews, take photos and shoot videos.
The team comprising writer A. Marx, K. Palanisamy and Rajni of the People’s Union for Human Rights; Veronica and Pechiammal of the Women’s United Front; and G. Sugumaran, secretary, Federation for People’s Rights, Puducherry, conducted interviews with members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), C. Balasubramaniam, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Usilampatti, and representatives of both the Dalits and caste Hindus.
The team said the pathway created after a portion of the untouchability wall was demolished was not fully accessible for the Dalits to move freely, as there were frequent objections from caste Hindus. Complaints had been filed, but no action was initiated. The team also wondered how the district administration chose the Pillaimar Uravinmurai Association building to house the police outpost and how the Dalits would register their complaints or air grievances there.
The team claimed that on October 1, trouble erupted when caste Hindus painted the wall adjacent to the Muthalamman temple despite objections from the Dalits. It escalated into a group clash, and this was followed by an alleged attack on Dalits. They further said women were also attacked and houses and property were damaged.
The attack on the Dalits exposed the anti-Dalit attitude of the police. The team sought action against police officials allegedly involved in the attack. It also sought a judicial probe. The team recommended that the police involved in providing security be changed and 50 per cent of the force to be newly posted be Dalits.
The Hindu / 02.11.2008.