The Dalit activists from Madurai and southern districts have demanded the Tamil Nadu government to declare Vengaivayal in Pudukottai district as untouchability-prone hamlet.
Many of the notable Dalit writers and activists have taken to social media to criticise the ‘nonchalant’ attitude of the district administration, the government and the police machinery in Pudukottai district.
On the night of December 24, a 6-year-old girl child, daughter of Kanagaraj, an artist, who plays in a local drama troupe, complained of vomiting and uneasiness. Immediately, the family members rushed to a PHC in Cauvery Nagar, but the staff recommended admission in the Pudukottai Government Medical College and Hospital.
After carrying out a series of tests, the doctors declared that the child had taken “contaminated” water. The following day, three more children from the Dalit colony suffered similar trauma after which the villagers woke up and checked the overhead tank. To their shock, they found faecal matter floating inside the water tank.
A fact-finding team comprising lawyers and activists led by Madurai based NGO, Evidence, visited the village and interacted with the residents on December 30.
Speaking to The Hindu, Evidence executive director Mr. Kathir said, “Many people were yet to come out of the shock. The elders in the community felt ashamed about the whole incident. Some of the women were fuming,” he said.
“The whole incident, no doubt, gave us an impression that it was a pre-planned crime. It was a conspiracy to humiliate the downtrodden people,” he charged.
The women asked the fact-finding team what had they done wrong to the dominant caste. “While the Dalit children were harmed, the officials were looking at us with suspicion. Instead of nabbing the actual culprits, the police were finding fault with our men,” the women told the team members.
Many in the village were tired and psychologically upset over the inhuman act, Mr. Kathir said and added that they were unable to eat anything properly since the incident came to light on the Christmas eve. “The officials have done very little. Is it not the duty of the government to eradicate untouchability? The people feel let down,” he said.
The district administration and the police in Pudukottai district were very much aware of the developments. “The government is keen to play down the whole incident. The accused, though named, are yet to be arrested. It is a shame on the police to say that they were looking out for the accused even after a week had gone by,” he said.
The temple entry into the Ayyanar Temple was nothing but an act to divert attention. From time immemorial, Scheduled Castes were either ill-treated or not allowed inside the temple in many villages, Mr. Kathir said and added that in 2002 in Thinniyam, two Dalits Murugesan and Ramasami were forced to take faecal matter. Similarly, a few more in Tiruchi district too suffered in 2003 and 2004 of such humiliation.
“The situation appeared to have gone from bad to worse. Today, from targeting individuals, the dominant community had gone to the extent of forcing the entire Dalit village to take faecal matter,” he charged.
South Zone IGP hailed
Senior advocate and People’s Watch Executive Director Henri Tiphagne recalled that a few months ago, in Tenkasi district, when a shopkeeper refused to sell eateries to Dalit children, the issue was swiftly handled by the Inspector General of Police (south zone) Asra Garg. He directed the Tenkasi district police to invoke Section 10 of SC/ST Atrocities (Amendment) Act 2015 which would bar the accused from entering the village.
“Likewise, the IGP (Central zone, Tiruchi) under whose jurisdiction Pudukottai district falls, should direct the police to invoke similar order against the accused in this case,” he demanded.
Moreover, when the complaint was about mixing of faecal matter in the overhead tank, the temple entry of Dalits by the officials and the Minister Siva Meyyanathan was nothing but diversionary tactics. “There is no need to hail the move. It is the duty of the government to ensure that Dalits were given due rights,” he said.
The district administration and the police should have dealt with the culprits with an iron hand at the initial stage itself. Ideally, the government should declare Vengaivayal village as “untouchability-prone” hamlet and restore peace, the Human Rights activist demanded.