The humiliation underwent by an 11-year-old Dalit boy, who was reportedly forced by a caste Hindu youth to carry his footwear on head at Vadugapatti in Usilampatti taluk near here, has brought to the fore years of subjugation and maltreatment suffered by Dalits of the village.
The discrimination began right at his residence. Around 250 Dalit families in the village were segregated from the rest and living in a separate locality called a “colony.”
Over 650 caste Hindu families occupied the remaining parts of the village.
The two groups of families also had separate temples and priests. “We have to cross their (caste Hindus) locality to reach our temple. And we dare not wear footwear. Our ancestors had been following it [not wearing footwear] without protest,” said P. Azhagu, a Dalit priest.
L. Azhaguraja, a Dalit driver of the village, said Dalits are prohibited from even riding bi-cycles and two-wheelers through the caste Hindu locality. “We cannot even travel as pillion riders. Any violation of the diktat would provoke the ire of the dominant community,” he said.
Concurring with him, R. Palpandi, a casual labourer, said the village ration shop was located in the area occupied by caste Hindus. “We cannot even take a two-wheeler there to bring home provisions. We have to carry the provisions on our heads. It is an unwritten rule,” he rued.
However, panchayat president M. Thavam, a caste Hindu, dismissed the allegations as baseless.