They demand the arrest of those involved in the murder

An 18-year-old Dalit youth, M. Karikalan of Vandiyur Theerthakadu, was allegedly murdered by an armed gang of nine members on Tuesday night.

The victim was waylaid on his way to home at Sourashtrapuram and attacked. He suffered multiple sickle injuries and stabs and was taken to the Government Rajaji Hospital where he died, said A. Muthamizh Pandian, rural district treasurer, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and coordinator of Vandiyur Theerthakadu Land Retrieval Struggle Committee.

Father of the deceased, Malaichamy (50), who is a lorry driver, said that there was already an attempt on his son’s life during a temple festival at Yagappa Nagar two months ago.

The VCK cadres, who had gathered at the GRH mortuary on Wednesday, refused to accept the body and staged a road roko on the busy Panagal Road, demanding the arrest of the those involved in the murder. Later, they marched to the Collector’s office and submitted a petition. The body was taken by his relatives for last rites later in the day.

Vandiyur Theerthakadu has been a disputed site and there has been strained relationship between the Dalits and caste Hindus of the area and its neighbourhood. This murder is also suspected to be an outcome of the land dispute. In 2003, a Dalit youth Kannan was murdered by a gang due to enmity based on the same issue, said A. R. Ayyankaalai, state joint secretary, Labour Liberation Front, VCK.

It has been more than three decades since the land originally meant for Adi Dravidars of Vandiyur Theerthakadu was encroached upon by caste Hindus. The Madras High Court has twice ordered the eviction of encroachments and relocation of Dalits in the identified lands.

The 349 Dalit families, who were living on the Vaigai riverbed, were allotted 9. 73 acres of land (Old Survey No 260/2A, 260/2B New Survey No.112/2A, 2B) by the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Welfare Department on March, 3, 1979. The families were given pattas on December 12, 1995.

However, the land was encroached by caste Hindus and even after a series of protests, dharnas and petitions by VCK and other Dalit organisations, the encroachments were not removed.

The encroachers, meanwhile, formed a residents' welfare association (RWA) and thwarted all attempts made by the Dalits to make the administration remove their encroachments. Members of VCK filed a writ petition in the High Court, which, on October, 30, 2008, ordered the removal of encroachments within six months.

On October 22, 2010, the High Court ordered the district administration to relocate the encroachers in the 3.87 hectares of land identified by them at Sakkimangalam and if they refused to move evict them in accordance with law. The Principal Secretary and Special Commissioner, Land Administration, were also issued copies of the order.

Thol. Thirumavalavan, VCK president and MP, had already written a letter to the Collector citing the details of the court proceedings and requested him to take necessary action.

The then District Collector C. Kamaraj had said that 348 non-Dalits, who were occupying the area, were enumerated and they would be relocated at Rajakkoor. As per the direction of the High Court, encroachments would be removed within the stipulated time, he had assured.

Already, on May 6, 2012, during the Chithirai festival, the encroachers with a gang entered the Dalit hamlet and damaged the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi name board and tried to attack Muthu Pandian and others. Cases had been already registered against 136 encroachers under Section 3(1) (4) of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 but no action had been taken against them, said A. C. Pavarasu, VCK headquarters secretary.

Superintendent of Police V. Balakrsihnan said that four members — Poo Pandi, Selva Kumar, Arun Pandi and Sissu Bala — had surrendered. One of the accused Karthik was arrested by the police.

When asked whether land dispute could be the reason behind the murder, he said that investigation was under way and the deceased and the gang used to play cricket together, so land dispute should not be the reason.

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