Demanding arrest of those responsible for Dalit priest’s suicide

Hundreds of villagers and cadres of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Tamil Nadu Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam staged road roko in T. Kallipatti near Periyakulam town on Tuesday demanding the arrest of those responsible for the suicide of a Dalit priest and refused to accept the body for the fourth day.

Nagamuthu of Ambedkar Nagar committed suicide on Friday after he was harassed and subjected to caste discrimination by a group of influential persons in the town. His father N. Subburaj claimed that the Periyakulam Municipal Chairman, Thenkarai Town Panchayat Chairman and five others were responsible for his son’s suicide.

Mr. Subburaj said that Nagamuthu was in an agitated mood for some months and wanted to expose the discrimination. He had left a suicide note in which he had named seven persons out of whom four belonged to the Scheduled Caste.

The authenticity of the note is being probed by the police.

The village president demanded that the persons responsible for the suicide be immediately arrested and government provide compensation of Rs.5 lakh along with a job to a member of the family.

When asked about Dalits figuring in the suicide note he said they were victims of power relationship.

In view of the protest, bus services were suspended and shops remained closed in Periyakulam. Superintendents of Police of Theni and Dindigul districts tried to pacify the protesters, but in vain.

After VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan spoke to the protesters from Chennai on phone, they withdrew the road roko.

The VCK leader said that a hunger strike would be observed till the accused were arrested and they would not receive the body.

Theni Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar Abhinapu told The Hindu that, one of the persons named in the FIR, Manimaran, had surrendered before a Judicial Magistrate Court in Madurai and another, Gnanam, had been arrested. Asked about the arrest of others, he said a search was on.

Mr. Subburaj said his son became the priest of the temple, which had been left unattended for several years. Nagamuthu made the temple popular by inviting the villagers to offer worship. After a few years, the temple was renovated and consecration done, leading to an increase in the number of devotees. Many caste groups, including Scheduled Castes, started claiming its ownership.

Andiappan, T. Kallipatti panchayat president, said the temple committee in April had asked Nagamuthu in April to keep off on auspicious occasions and festival times. He was assaulted when he objected. He could get a police case filed only after the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court gave a direction on August 31.

The Thenkarai police filed cases under Sections 294(b), 323, 506(1) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3(1)(x) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.