A fact-finding team of various human rights organisations visited Uthapuram village in Madurai district and Dombucheri village in Theni district on Sunday for assessing the situation in the wake of allegations of caste atrocities and police excesses against Dalits.
The team, comprising writer A. Marx, M. Sivagurunathan, K. Palanisamy and Rajni of the People’s Union for Human Rights; G. Sugumaran, secretary, Federation for People’s Rights Puducherry; S. Kochadai, People’s Education Organisation; M. Barakathulla, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation, Dindigul; and Viduthalai Veeran, Adi Tamizhar Peravai, conducted interviews with Ravichandran, Inspector of Police, Elumalai, and the Dalits.
The team said that in Uthapuram the pathway created after a portion of the ‘untouchability’ wall was demolished was not fully accessible to the Dalits for moving freely, as there were frequent objections from caste Hindus. This, they alleged, was taking place with the State’s connivance. After the intervention of MLAs of Communist Party of India led by K. Balabharathi on June 21, the Dalits were once taken for a ride in autorickshaw, which was nothing but tokenism.
Even after funds were allotted under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme of CPI (M) Rajya Sabha MP T.K. Rangarajan, the demand for the construction of the bus shelter had been shelved citing law and order problems and this move was condemnable, the team said.
In Dombucheri village, a clash erupted on June 23 following a dispute over carrying the body of a caste Hindu who had married a Dalit, through the caste Hindu area. Following this, both the attackers and the Dalits who were targeted were arrested.
The team visited the village and held discussions with the Panchayat president, caste Hindus and Dalits and found that there was a polemical divide with various sub-castes of caste Hindus on one side and sub-castes of Dalits on the other. The Dalits demanded a separate pathway to their burial grounds.
The team said that casteism was highly prevalent in Theni, Bodi Thevaram Elumalai and Usilampatti areas and the State machinery in the form of police and Revenue Departments were anti-Dalit and conniving with the dominant castes.
They recommended that the State government take note of this and make sure that Dalits and members of castes other than the dominant castes of the locality be replaced with the existing staff on a mutual transfer. Following the recommendations of the Scheduled Caste and Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989, the State should form committees in all these villages to monitor caste discrimination.
The State government should completely demolish the ‘untouchability’ wall in Uthapuram and immediately construct the bus shelter and drainage system and allow Dalits to participate in temple festivals.
Create new pathway
The team also demanded that a new pathway be established by the district administration on a war footing. They demanded action against the police who had failed to book the caste Hindus who attacked the Dalits, under the SC/ST Act.
The Hindu / 06.07.2010