Tension prevailed in Uthapuram village coming under Peraiyur taluk near here on Monday when a team of Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLAs, led by its floor leader in the Assembly, K. Balabharathi, argued with the police to ensure Dalits access to public space.
MLAs N. Nanmaran (Madurai East), S. K. Mahendran (Perambur) and P. Sampath, State convenor, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, visited Uthapuram to enquire about incidents of violence allegedly unleashed upon the Dalits, both by caste Hindus and police on June 17.
Following the demolition of a portion of the ‘untouchability wall,' the Dalits placed a few demands, which include construction of drainage and bus shelter, worshipping rights at the Muthalamman temple and proper access to the pathway opened by the Government.
The MLAs and villagers demanded that the pathway used by Dalits should again become accessible. They also proceeded to use the pathway. However, the police prevented them.The MLAs argued that it was a basic democratic right for an individual to use public space and it had to be ensured. Mr. Mahendran said, “It is a public space and to use it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution and the State has to ensure that right instead of conniving with the forces that prevent the Dalits from using it.” After conducting talks with the revenue officials and arguing with the police officials, the MLAs saw to it that the Dalits were allowed to use the common pathway.
Finally, at around 2.30 p.m., a police jeep escorted an autorickshaw that carried the Dalits through the pathway to symbolically ensure that they could access the space.