Attempt to question practices invites wrath of dominant caste

Multiple forms of discrimination exist in Vadugapatti village near Usilampatti, where a 12 year-old- Dalit boy was made to carry his footwear on his head recently.

Dalits can neither walk on the streets of caste Hindus with their footwear on nor can they enter common pathways on bicycles. If they violated the rule they had to face the wrath of the dominant caste in the village, the Piramalai Kallars.

Twenty-nine-year-old Nagammal, the boy’s mother, was courageous enough to have taken up the issue with the police in a place where caste panchayats rule the roost.

Their two-room house in the colony has images of B.R.Ambedkar.

Dalits in the village cannot enter the Santhana Mariamman temple in the village; nor are they allowed to use the village square space. They have no access to common property resources. Even at ration shops, Dalits are abused by caste Hindus if they get close to them, said Vairupandy (25) a Dalit youth.

Dalits cannot sit in front of caste Hindus at bus shelters; there is no pathway for them to approach the graveyard and even during an emergency they have to use a circuitous route. The law of the land is that all issues pertaining to the villages should be dealt within the caste panchayats (kangaroo courts).

Maayakkal (60) and other Kallar women in the village square said that they don’t eat food or drink tea in Dalit houses . When asked why they said it has been the tradition for centuries.

The village school has portraits of all leaders such as Kamaraj and Muthuramalinga Thevar, but none of B.R.Ambedkar. When the Dalits tried to have one, their efforts were prevented by the Kallars. The village has a good number of Dalit youth who wish to see social change during their lifetime and want to put an end to such forms of discrimination.

Both the Kallars and Dalits in the village are economically dependent on agriculture and brick kilns, but a few among the former have used their snack-making skills in northern states and have earned quick money to return and build concrete roof houses and buy land.

The Dalits were angry that the District Collector had not visited the village to enquire about the incident.