Twenty five Dalit houses damaged, a few vehicles torched

Eleven members of an intermediate caste were arrested, while three others surrendered before the Nanguneri Judicial Magistrate Court, in connection with the attack on Dalit women and incidents of arson in Tirunelveli district in early May.

The Thirukkurunkudi village at Thenkarai in Nanguneri taluk, inhabited by Dalits, was attacked on May 8 by 50 armed men from the intermediate caste, as a backlash to a funeral procession taken out by Dalits bearing the body of Kumari (a) Thavamani, who died the previous day.

The procession, taken out under police protection, traversed a public pathway at Nambithalaivanpattaiyam, dominated by members of the intermediate castes, to reach the cremation ground at Avaramthalai.

Twenty five Dalit houses were damaged, a few vehicles torched and five women injured in the attack. About 300 Dalits occupy 80 houses in the village.

Following complaints lodged by the Dalits, the Thirukurunkudi police filed cases under Sections 147, 148, 294(b), 324 and 506(2) of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 3(1)(10) of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.

The police also filed a case against the Dalits under Sections 294(b), 323, 354 and 427 of the IPC based on a counter-complaint from the intermediate caste members.

The Dalits submitted a petition to the District Collector on May 13, demanding action against the people involved in the attack and seeking police protection.

A similar flare-up occurred on December 29, 2012, when a Dalit funeral procession following the death of a woman, Chellammal, drew violence from intermediate caste members.

Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, visited Thirukkurunkudi village on May 16. The NGO submitted a report to the government demanding the arrest of those involved in the attack under Sections 3(1) (11), 3(2) (3) of the the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.

Their other demands included Rs.2 lakh compensation for the affected Dalits and reconstruction of the damaged houses. The government should also identify the villages across the state where this form of untouchability existed and take stringent action, they demanded.

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