Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Forest Minister Dindigul Sreenivasan gets tribal boy to take off his slippers

Tamil Nadu Forest Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan tells a tribal child to remove his slippers at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve on February 6, 2020. Photo: Special Arrangement

Tamil Nadu Forest Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan tells a tribal child to remove his slippers at the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve on February 6, 2020. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Act sparks outrage; boy files complaint with the police, no FIR registered yet

Forest Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan sparked outrage on Thursday, after he instructed a tribal boy at the Theppakadu Elephant Camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) to remove his slippers so that he could enter a shrine at the camp.

Later in the evening, the boy submitted a complaint to the police, who however, did not register an FIR at the time of filing this report.

Mr. Sreenivasan, who arrived at the camp to inaugurate the annual rejuvenation camp for captive elephants, called to one of two boys from the Kurumba tribal community, aged 14.

The Minister was standing outside a shrine at the elephant camp and asked the youth to unbuckle his slippers.

When the boy began unbuckling Mr. Sreenivasan’s slippers, waiting photographers tried to take pictures, but were chided by the Minister, who asked them to stop. Coonoor MLA ‘Shanthi’ A. Ramu blocked photographers from clicking clear photographs of the incident.

After Mr. Sreenivasan entered the shrine, another member of his entourage asked the boy to pick up the slippers and leave them at the entrance of the shrine.

After the incident sparked outrage, Mr. Sreenivasan expressed his “regret” at the incident.

“I saw two small boys playing near me, so I asked one of them to help me take off my slippers… the little boy is like my grandson, if anyone’s feelings were hurt, they are a source of regret,” he told journalists.

However, C. Chikbomman, village headman of Theppakadu, urged the Minister to apologise to the community.

“We see the incident as an insult to the community at large and a reflection of the attitude of politicians towards tribal groups,” said Mr. Chikbomman.

He added that after consultations with other village heads, the community plans to stage protests against the Minister.

Senthil Kumar, general secretary of the Mudumalai Pazhangudiyinar Nala Sangam, also issued a statement condemning the Minister’s actions.

“It is deeply regrettable that the Minister, tasked with protecting the interests of the forests and the people that depend on them, has acted in such an insensitive manner,” he said. Mr. Senthil Kumar added that the Minister has committed an offense under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

In the evening, the boy submitted a complaint stating that he felt “humiliated” by the episode, and said that he went home straight after the incident “in tears”. The boy urged the police to register a case against Mr. Sreenivasan, under relevant sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

In the complaint, he said that the Minister and the officials were aware that he belonged to an indigenous tribal community, and that he felt pressured and “afraid” to do as the Minister said. The Masinagudi police accepted his complaint, but said that no FIR has been registered so far.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 5:30:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-nadu-forest-minister-dindigul-sreenivasan-gets-tribal-boy-to-take-off-his-slippers/article30748707.ece

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