Vellore Collector A. Shanmuga Sundram on Thursday ordered that 50 cents of government land be allotted for the creation of a crematorium for Dalit residents of Narayanapuram Adi Dravidar Colony, in Vaniyambadi taluk.
After a video showing the body of an Adi Dravidar man being lowered from a bridge over the Palar for cremation went viral, the Collector also ordered an inquiry by revenue officials.
In a parallel development, the Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance of reports of bodies of Dalits being “airdropped” from the bridge in the district for the last four years because caste Hindus had reportedly barred access to lands encroached by them.
Revenue officials from Vaniyambadi, led by Tahsildar Murugan, along with a police team, visited Narayanapuram to conduct an investigation.
Villagers reportedly told the officials that the land belonged to them and had been under cultivation till recently.
Mr. Murugan told reporters that based on the survey, revenue officials had decided to allot 50 cents in Panathoppu area for creation of a crematorium. Necessary infrastructure, such as a cremation shed and a mandapam, would be provided soon, he added.
In the video, the body of Kuppan, 56, from the Narayanapuram Adi Dravidar Colony, can be seen being lowered to the river bank for cremation. Kuppan died in a road accident.
Residents of the colony said after the construction of the bridge, members of other castes had encroached upon the path leading to the river, denying Dalits access to carry their dead through their farmland.
A relative of the deceased, Krishnan, said they had sought the district administration’s intervention to remove encroachments on the path to the crematorium. Like Krishnan, other residents of the colony have also been waiting for a solution.
Court takes note
Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani concurred with the decision taken by Justices S. Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad to take up a public interest litigation (PIL) petition suo motu after Assistant Solicitor General G. Karthikeyan brought the news reports to their notice and insisted upon the court’s intervention.
The petition, signed by the the High Court’s Joint Registrar (writs), sought a direction to the State government represented by the Home Secretary, Vellore Collector and Vaniyambadi Tahsildar to conduct a detailed probe into the issue, initiate appropriate action and submit a report to the court as expeditiously as possible.