It was all depressing to see tears rolling down from the cheeks of women and men while narrating their tales of woe and atrocities committed against them in the name of caste.

One hundred victims of various atrocities gave testimonies at the People's Conference on Victims of Atrocities here on Saturday. It was organised by Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation working among Dalits and Tribals.

The members belonging to Dalit and Tribal communities expressed their conditions of inability to fight both the State and the hierarchical social order, which were “repressing their right” to freedom and livelihood.

The discriminations included honour killings, bonded labour, attacks on the basis of defilement by touch, sexual harassment, social ostracism, discrimination at workplace. Caste as identity was the central feature behind all these attacks and in one case a small boy was not even spared and forced to remove excreta by his bare hands by a Caste Hindu after the boy unknowingly defecated on an open field in the caste Hindu area.

This incident had a psychological effect on the child who underwent a lot of trauma which got reflected in his everyday life and literally made him get attached to water clean his hands frequently and to touch things hesitantly.

P.K. Mishra, former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, in his special address, said that it is unfortunate after 63 years of Independence and 60 years of becoming a Republic our nation is still plagued by the ills of caste-based discrimination. He also listed out that caste-based atrocities and corruption as the two most baneful things that our nation has to overcome.

Mr. Mishra accompanied the victims on the stage and helped them with having their thumb impressions on a whiteboard as a symbolic measure to record the testimonies before they actually deposed in front of the panel.

S.K. Krishnan, former Judge, Madras High Court, in his inaugural address, said that there are sufficient numbers of laws but the lack of will on the part of the bureaucracy to implement them fully is the reason for its prevalence.

While speaking on the objective of the conference, A. Kathir, executive director, Evidence, said that conference aims to record that caste-based discrimination is an existing reality which needs complete attention at an international level.

Later the victims sitting beside a jury of 6 members presented their cases one after the other. Each jury member accompanied the victim and expressed their solidarity with the victims after hearing their cases.

The jury members who voiced their views in solidarity with the victims were Qudsia Gandhi, Chairperson and Managing Director, Overseas Manpower Corporation India Limited, Rev Aloysious Irudayam, Head, Research and Documentation, National Campaign on Dalit and Human Rights, V. Karuppan Former Civil Services Officer, Bernard Fatima, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women Movement, Vasamalli, Member, State Tribal Welfare Board, and Beulah Azariah, Women Activist.

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