Tamil Nadu

Two months after ‘graveyard’ dispute, SCs lose their jobs

Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 03/09/2019.The SC burial and cremation ground in the foreground and the common burial ground used by Caste Hindus in the background at P. Subbulapuram village in Madurai district. Photo; G. Moorthy/ The Hindu   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

Two months after members of a Scheduled Caste community were disallowed by caste Hindus from using a common graveyard in P. Subbulapuram village in Peraiyur taluk in Madurai, leading to the filing of a police complaint, the former continue to be targeted in a systematic manner.

During a visit to the village on Tuesday, The Hindu found that the land leased out to members of the SC community for cultivation had been taken back by the caste Hindus. The SC community alleged that they had been disallowed from working in farmlands owned by caste Hindus as daily wagers.

A. Nataraj, who used to work in the farmlands, said he used to earn ₹300 per day, and the women, ₹120. “Everything changed after the death. No one has a job in the same village. We have to travel all the way to Kallupatti, which is roughly 5 km away, for jobs,” he said.

Mr. Narataj referred to the death of one V. Shanmugavel on July 16, 2019, as the genesis of the ostracisation his community was facing now. He explained that as it was pouring heavily on the day of cremation, the SC community could not use their crematorium, which had no roof. S. Kuruvamma, wife of the deceased, said, “My sons appealed to the elders of their community (the caste Hindus) to let us use their crematorium, which is a pucca structure, just this time. But they refused, resulting in a verbal argument and their filing a police complaint against our community.”

S. Sathya, her daughter-in-law, said since then, at least 10-15 families from the SC community who had leased land by paying ₹2,000 upfront for cultivating pulses have been asked to stay away.

“This is a rain-fed region. We have been leasing their land for years based on oral agreements,” she added.

M. Malliga, another woman from the community, said, “They think we will go back crying to them because we do not have any work,” she said.

‘Orders’ to caste Hindus

The SC community also alleged that an “order” had been issued to caste Hindus not to speak to them. “Occasionally, they will call us on the phone for work, but they are now scared. A fine of ₹1,000 has been levied on anyone who speaks to us. We do not know if it has been implemented yet but there is certainly a ban as many of them tell us,” claimed L. Alagaraj. A large number of Reddiars, along with a section of members of the Konar, Nadar, Thevar and Iyer communities, make up the composition of the 400 households in the caste Hindu section of the village.

C. Ramasamy, a member of the caste Hindu section, said there was no ‘fine’ per se for speaking to the SC community. “They are free to buy ration and drink tea at shops in our area. Since they abused us using expletives and were drunk when they sought to burn the body, we are not speaking [to them],” he said.

Mr. Ramasamy said he offered to provide tarp and petrol to the members of the SC community on the day of the death. “If we give it [access to their crematorium] to one person, then it will become a norm,” he contended.

“Separate crematoriums are present across Tamil Nadu. If a law is enacted (allowing common usage), we will have no choice but to comply. Until then, changes cannot happen suddenly in villages,” said A. Sivakumar, another caste Hindu.

T. Chellakannu, joint secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, which has intervened in the issue, alleged the existence of an ‘untouchability wall’ preventing SC members from crossing over to Vannivelampatti, a village 100 m away.

District Revenue Officer P. Selvaraj, who is acting as Collector (in-charge), said preliminary discussions between the communities to resolve the issue were held.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 6:49:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/two-months-after-graveyard-dispute-scs-lose-their-jobs/article29326487.ece

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