The Dalits of Villoor village under Kalligudi taluk near Thirumangalam in Madurai district are facing a peculiar problem as they are not allowed to ride two-wheelers along the street (Periasamy Koil Street) of caste Hindus.
Those who defy these norms are being attacked and ostracised by the dominant caste in the village. A few villagers and a shopkeeper on the street said that the practice had been there for a long time.
In the recent past, a Dalit youth, G. Thangapandian (24), who had completed teacher training and spent most of his time in urban living conditions, invited the wrath of caste Hindus when he rode his motorcycle through Periasamy Koil Street. The caste Hindus interrupted him and questioned his behaviour. A minor scuffle ensued and he was allegedly beaten up by a caste Hindu youth. When Thangapandian tried to file a complaint at the Villoor police station, he was prevented from doing so by caste Hindus.
Following this a peace committee meeting was called for by the caste Hindus to which Thangapandian's brother G. Murugan was invited. Fearing reprisal, he avoided the meeting and as a result, the caste Hindus laid a siege to a town bus on September 4, demanding that Dalits should come for talks.
However, the caste Hindus, with the intervention of police, later agreed for an alternative route to the Dalits, which is circuitous. The officials in the police department said that the practice of not allowing two-wheelers was age old, which had been internalised by the Dalits and nobody stopped them from riding two–wheelers but they themselves had refrained from doing so.
The Revenue Department officials, when contacted, said that the police had conducted talks with the villagers and once “they send the report we will forward it to the Special Tahsildar, Adi Dravidar Welfare, for perusal.” One of the officials said that the problem of separate routes for Dalits had already been an issue in 2000 and now it had come up again.
Two routes have been identified by the Revenue Department. Eastern Puliyampatti Vilakku is a route which has been suggested by the Dalits but the problem is that the route passes through patta lands of the caste Hindus and so it is a difficult task for the administration and the other route, the Maravapatti route, could be cleared for the use of Dalits.
The village has a major population of a dominant OBC caste and Dalits are in miniscule number. They are secluded in the eastern part of the village (Kizhakku Theru). Most of the Dalits are part of agricultural labour force and a few among them are engaged in making broomsticks during off-season.
Keywords: caste discrimination