Over 300 Dalit families of Deveerahalli Village, of Kudimenahalli Panchayat, in Krishnagiri district allege that they are being denied work by intermediate castes of the village and of six other nearby villages. The reason behind this, they say, is that a Dalit youth in their area had fallen in love with a girl of an intermediate caste from Sathinayakkanpatti under Damodarahalli Panchayat.
The girl is back with her parents after the youth’s parents wanted her to go back, as they feared the type of mob fury which was unleashed on three colonies in nearby Dharmapuri district, over a similar issue in November last year. But, the boycott of the Dalits of the Krishnagiri village continues though the affair had come to light in December and the girl had gone back to her home.
Intermediate castes have banned Dalits from working on their agriculture fields, brick kilns and other income-earning activities since then. The decision to bar them from such forms of employment was allegedly taken by a ‘khap panchayat’ — a council of older persons who issue decrees to their community members on matters such as marriage — consisting of the leaders of seven villages, in and around Sathinayakkanpatti and Deevarahalli, on December 24 last year, alleged A. Manikandan, district convener of Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
Many Dalits, who have also taken up the lands of intermediate caste on lease, for cultivation of crops, lost lakhs of rupees due to the economic boycott. They were not allowed to step into the farm lands. M. Kumar (37), who is District president of HIV Positive Network, said, “After the incident in December, the neighbouring landowner refused to give water for irrigating my ragi crop, cultivated on half an acre. I was forced to buy water from another village and bring it by tractors to save my crop’’. S. Salamma (45) of Deveerapalli village says she has two young sons to take care of. As her husband, a daily wage earner, has been rendered jobless because of the boycott, the family is totally dependent on the earnings from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) works and the free rice distributed through the public distribution system.
M. Chitra (30), mother of two male children, said, “There is no discrimination at the MGNREGS worksite, but the intermediate castes stopped speaking to us after the order of the khap panchayat”.
The decision taken at the khap panchayat allegedly ordered that Dalits should not be employed under the MGNREGS also. But, it was rejected by the village panchayat president K. Murugesan. Himself a member of an intermediate caste, he told the village leaders that he could not indulge in discrimination as the head of a local body. The parents of the youth and the girl could not be contacted for their comments.
X. Irudayaraj, District Secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, and G. Sekar, District Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), added the police and revenue authorities should take action against those indulging in the boycott of Dalits, which denied them livelihood.
Stating that his inquiry found a boycott of the Dalits, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Bargur, G. Gajendran said, on Saturday, that he would conduct a meeting between the Dalits and caste-Hindus. As for the love affair, Mr. Gajendran said that even before a formal complaint was lodged by the girl’s family, a police team visited the village and took all possible measures to prevent any untoward incident, and the girl returned to her parents.