The spirit of harmony still survives in first Samathuvapuram

Reciprocating affection: Residents of the first Samthuvapuram inaugurated by former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi carry out a symbolic funeral procession for the departed leader on Wednesday.


Fifty-year-old M. Sara Beevi vividly remembers August 17, 1998, a rainy day when former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi came to Melakottai near Tirumangalam to inaugurate the first Samathuvapuram (Equality village) in Tamil Nadu. The Samathuvapuram, later named in memory of Dravidar Kazhagam leader Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, was conceived to bring about communal amity.

“We all were supposed to receive keys for the 100 houses in the Samathuvapuram from Kalaignar (Karunanidhi). Unfortunately, there was a heavy downpour that even threatened to bring down the stage. He could stay only for a few minutes,” she says.

Samathuvapuram s, the brainchild of Karunanidhi, was an ambitious and unique idea that aimed at creating spatial equality and harmony by housing people of different communities in newly developed residential areas with all amenities.

In the first Samathuvapuram , 45 SC/ST families, 25 MBC and BC families each, and 10 other community families were allotted houses.

Today, 20 years after its inauguration, almost all the families continue to live there despite all the facilities, including houses, roads, drainages, the community hall, library, primary school, park and the cooperative milk society, lying in a shambles.

A month back, the residents had to block Madurai-Tirunelveli highway, where the Samathuvapuram is located, to highlight the acute shortage of drinking water.

Apart from the lack of basic amenities, a key issue for the residents was the non-transfer of the land to their names, which is proving to be a hurdle in obtaining bank loans or even expanding their houses. “But we were told that the ownership will be transferred after 15 years,” says T. Mahalingam, a resident.

Mr. Mahalingam was one of the few who managed a have photo clicked with Karunanidhi during the brief inaugural function. “ Thalaivar asked me what would I do after he had created the Samathuvapuram. I told him he had planted a sapling and we would ensure that it grew into a deep-rooted tree,” he says.

“We are continuing to fulfil his dream by living here in harmony,” he adds. Though caste has not become completely irrelevant in at this Samathuvapuram as indicated by the fact that there has seldom been an inter-caste marriage, most residents vouch that there have been no instances of caste-related tension either.

A black flag flew on top of the arch at the entrance of the Samathuvapuram on Wednesday as a symbol of mourning. The residents carried out a symbolic funeral procession to the common cremation ground, another rarity in Madurai villages that have separate yards for different communities.

M. Alagu Raja, a spinning mill employee who grew up in the Samathuvapuram , says Pongal was the major festival celebrated there with the participation of all households.

“I spent my childhood here and have developed a strong bonding to this place. When I moved in here, the facilities were good. Later, some maintenance work was done when the DMK came to power in 2006. I hope the government addresses our grievances,” he says.

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Printable version | May 6, 2022 5:34:09 pm |