In an incident seemingly lifted from the pages of medieval history, a 30-year-old man was ‘ostracised’ for nearly a month by ‘heads’ of the community in Nainar Kuppam in Uthandi, 15 km from Adyar, and slapped with a fine of Rs. 1 lakh last month over a property dispute.
The victim, A. Sivaramakrishnan, has been the caretaker of a piece of private land near his home in the Kuppam since 2008. Nearly eight months ago, there was a dispute, and Sivaramakrishnan prevented some private parties from encroaching. “The heads of the Kuppam then asked me to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000,” said Mr. Sivaramakrishnan.
The issue flared up once again some 20 days ago, when the private party tried to build a compound wall and again encroach upon the land. “I stopped them once again. The same day, the village heads announced that I had to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh. When I refused, they said I was disrespecting the village and ostracised me,” he said.
There are some 350 houses in the Kuppam. In a video Mr. Sivaramakrishnan has shot, Seetharaman, the ‘herald’ of the village, is seen announcing that the victim and his family have been ostracised. “The other villagers were prevented from speaking to me or my family. We could not purchase vegetables and groceries as those who sold us anything also had to pay a fine. My family was also not permitted to fetch water from the common pipe,” said Mr. Sivaramakrishnan.
For reasons unknown, the ban was lifted two days ago. “But I still fear a threat to my life. So I am staying in a relative’s house,” says Mr. Sivaramakrishnan.
His is not a unique case though, as five others have faced the same punishment over the past couple of years here, said a villager.
D. Arul, one of the village ‘heads,’ who initially denied this occurrence, later said such practices would not be adopted in future. “Now, our children are educated and advise us. So we cannot adopt such punishments,” he said.
R. Sudhakar, deputy commissioner of police, Adyar, said he had advised the villagers not to adopt such punishments. He added, “I told Sivaramakrishnan to contact me if he faces similar threats in the future.”
Mr. Sivaramakrishnan has sent copies of his complaint to the Chief Minister, Chief Justice, Madras High Court as well as the Kancheepuram District Collector.