Wiping her tears and speaking in a feeble tone holding a mike, M. Arulmozhi narrated the dastardly manner in which her Dalit husband Muthazhagu was hacked to death near their house in Madurai district allegedly by caste Hindus in late June.
The frail woman could not control her emotions while recounting the murder that devastated her. “I have none now, but for my two children, said Ms. Arulmozhi in front of an audience that heard her with rapt attention here. The woman said her husband, an activist, fell victim for stoutly opposing opening of a Tasmac liquor outlet and for supporting inter-caste weddings.
A public hearing on caste murders in Tamil Nadu organised by Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation on Sunday served as a platform for those like Arulmozhi, who had an inter-caste marriage with Muthazhagu, to share their woes.
Sivaranjani, sister of a Dalit minor girl of Sirukadambur village in Ariyalur district who was allegedly raped and murdered by a few caste Hindus in January, was forthright in her speech.
‘Accused let off’
Ms. Sivaranjani accused the police of initially letting off the person whom the family had mentioned as being responsible for the kidnap of the minor girl. The girl’s body was found inside a well a few days later.
“It was only subsequently that the accused and his accomplices were arrested. It really pains us when we see the accused detained under Goondas Act now walking freely outside,” said Ms. Sivaranjani.
Speaking in a determined voice was Ms. Parameswari, whose Dalit husband Murugan — an ex-panchayat president of Vembathur village in Sivaganga district — was murdered by caste Hindus in April. Ms. Parameswari said her husband used to take up issues concerning Dalits and insisted on cases being booked accordingly if Dalits were the victims. Eventually, it ended in his murder, she added.
The day-long hearing saw Kausalya, whose young Dalit husband Sankar’s murder at Udumalpet in Tirupur district created a sensation across the State in 2016, said her family members came a week before the murder to Sankar’s house and in a threatening tone said that they should not be held responsible in the event of him being killed. “Evidence” executive director Kathir claimed that caste murders involving Dalits were on the rise in the State in the recent years.
Fifteen Dalits were murdered across the State last month, he alleged, further claiming that 25 Dalit activists had been killed in the last one year. In a majority of caste murder cases, charge-sheets were not filed in time and conviction rate was very low, he alleged.
The highest number of cases under the SC / ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was booked in Madurai district. Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam leader Kolathur Mani, Prof. Kalpana Karunakaran, advocates Ezhil Caroline and Savitha and writer Bava Chelladurai formed part of the jury.