About 400 Dalit voters belonging to the Devendrakula Velalar community in the communally sensitive Kuruvithurai village in Sholavandan constituency threatened to abstain from voting as the polling booth was located in the caste Hindus dominated area in the village.
The protesters voted later in the afternoon after negotiation by Returning Officer of the constituency and other senior officials.
Claiming that they felt intimidated to vote in the common booth, the protesting voters said that they were promised a separate booth ahead of the elections but was not fulfilled.
“Even in the booth slips issued to us, it was mentioned that our polling booth will be the community hall located in our area,” said R. Muthumari, one of the vilagers.
Kuruvithurai has remained tense ever since a communal violence broke out in the village in which about 20 houses belonging to Dalit people were attacked by the caste Hindus.
“Ever since the issue, we are often facing threats from the caste Hindus. How can we go and vote there without fear?” questioned V. Jeyakumar from the village.
Following the communal violence, the Dalits were also demanding a separate ration shop apart from other basic amenities like road and drinking water facilities, which are lacking in the area.
While acknowledging that other demands were being fulilled, a senior official, however, said that a separate polling booth was never promised. “It is not possible to split the voter list on community basis,” he said.
“Few Dalit had voted earlier in the morning. Only later, the issue started,” he said.
The Dalits gave up the protest after assurances that their request for a separate booth will be considered in the future.
Adequate security was also provided in the polling booth and to the Dalit people to ensure that nothing untoward happened during polling.