For first time, Dalits of Madurai village vote in local body polls

EXERCISING THEIR RIGHT: Dalits of Gramapatti village voted for the first time in local body polls on Wednesday. Photo: S. James

EXERCISING THEIR RIGHT: Dalits of Gramapatti village voted for the first time in local body polls on Wednesday. Photo: S. James  

They could vote freely in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections but had to plead and fight for their right to exercise their franchise in local body polls.

The Dalits (Pallars) of Gramapatti village in Kovilankulam panchayat under Chellampatti panchayat union near here finally got to vote in the panchayat elections for the first time in four decades.

According to a section of the Dalits, the local elite's dominance, in the form of caste control by the dominant Piramalai Kallars, was the reason why they never got a chance to vote. The Dalits could not be assertive as they were dependent on the caste Hindus for work.

However, for the first time, the whole village, with a population of 200 belonging to 60 families with 71 votes, cast its vote at the polling station in Government Kallar Middle School, Kovilankulam, thanks to the efforts of District Collector U. Sagayam.

P. Deiva Lakshmi (28) of Gramapatti represented the injustice meted to Dalits at the grievance day on October 10 at the Collectorate. The Collector asked the Block Development Officer of Chellampatti union to immediately look into the issue and make arrangements for the villagers to vote.

“I really cannot remember the last time our villagers cast their votes in the panchayat elections,” said Ms. Lakshmi. “We also made an appeal to the Collector to shift the polling station, which is five km away from our colony, to the nearby village, which is two km away. Since the arrangements were already made, it was difficult to change the station but the officials promised to consider the request next time.”

The village does not have a proper pathway. There is no ration shop and residents have to travel six km to Nathampatti for buying essentials. They do not have a cremation ground, street lamps, cement roads or community hall.

P. Veeran (32), a construction worker, said that every time the Dalits went to vote in the panchayat elections they were informed by the caste Hindus that their votes had been cast in the “proper manner,” and hence they could go back to the village.

The villagers, while feeling elated about the fact that they had cast their vote, harboured the fear that they could be attacked any time by the dominant castes for taking up the issue with the Collector and the police, said Kasi Mayan, a social worker.

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 31, 2020 3:36:06 AM |

Next Story