Staff Reporter

VEDARANYAM: Dalit graveyards have always been contested spaces. The caste fault lines re-emerged when caste Hindus opposed the proposed burial of a Dalit convert in a graveyard for Scheduled Castes at Katripulam in Vedaranyam on Friday.

The only ten Dalit families of Katripulam had converted to Christianity three years ago.

However, there has been a samudaya thadai, or community restraint, on commemoration of their religious practices within the village. With the first death in their community, the issue came to the fore.

Dalit graveyards have had a chequered trajectory here. All the graveyards on government poramboke lands are common for all, except Dalits. As in life, Dalits are ostracised in their graves and the ‘SC graveyards’ are government-sanctioned euphemisms for such ostracism.

“We have no issues with their cremating in the space allotted, but burying them with a crucifix would not be allowed. It would affect future burials by SCs in the limited space of three cents allotted to them,” Veeramani, ex-president, Katripulam, told The Hindu.

Communal markers

When pointed out that there were just 10 SC families in the village, all of whom had converted, and none had issues with burial, Mr. Veeramani said that the “peaceful village need not have communal markers.”

According to Birla Thangadurai, member of District Committee against Bonded Labour, those families had converted to escape caste oppression. The point is to have them bonded for eternity. An RDO or a Collector would forever be an outcaste in her or his own village, said Mr. Thangadurai.

Following ‘peace talks’ with the Revenue Divisional Officer, and at the intervention of the priest of the Chapel, it was decided that the body would be cremated.

Alternative site

If the Dalits sought an alternative burial site, it could be considered, said the RDO.