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Atrocities on Tamil Nadu's Dalits

The growing aspirations of Dalits to own land, either for cultivation or to build a house, and the continued opposition or indifference of caste Hindus has led to several recent atrocities against Dalits in the state of Tamil Nadu

The shocking incident of three Dalits being forced to consume human waste, in Tamil Nadu, adds to the long list of atrocities that Dalits face.

On September 5, at Kaundampatti in Dindigul district, Sankan, a Dalit agricultural worker was forced to drink urine because he lodged a police complaint of trespass against a caste Hindu, following a dispute over a piece of land.

An equally horrifying incident occurred at Thinniyam village in Tiruchi district on May 22. Two Dalits, Murugesan and Ramasami, were forced 'to feed each other' human excreta. Their 'crime'? They had stood by another Dalit, Karuppiah, who was engaged in a prolonged struggle against a former panchayat president and her husband to recover money given as a bribe to get a house allotted for his sister.

About 100 Dalit families live in Thinniyam village where the Kallars are the predominant caste. Seven years ago, Karuppiah (38) reportedly paid Rs 2,000 to S Rajalakshmi, a Kallar and the president of the local panchayat. When he was not allotted a house, Karuppiah demanded his money back. Subramanian, Rajalakshmi's husband, first asked for more time but later denied that he had taken any money. A frustrated Karuppiah decided to lodge a complaint. Enraged, Subramanian and his son abused and assaulted him. The next morning, Subramanian and his relatives allegedly assaulted Murugesan and Ramasami for helping Karuppiah bring his grievance to the public's notice. It was then that the two were reportedly forced to feed each other human excreta.

Sankan (44) of Kaundampatti says that he is a victim of breach of trust. Sankan had been working on the farm of a village landlord for many years. About 15 years ago, the family patriarch agreed to give him a piece of land on condition that he would deduct Rs 500 every month from Sankan's wages. The money was deducted but Sankan was never given any land. Since he was sent off the farm five years ago, he has been pressing his erstwhile employer to give him the land. He took the issue to a civil court. Meanwhile, the landlords attempted to sell the disputed land. When Sankan resisted the entry of Kannan, who claimed to be one of the new owners, he and his family were assaulted. He lodged a complaint with the police on September 4. The next day Kannan along with a group of persons, including the police constable, Annadurai, confronted Sankan and attacked him. In his statement, Sankan said that he was dragged for about 200 metres and beaten. When he stumbled, he was caught by the hair and an assailant urinated into his mouth.

The investigation has been entrusted to the Protection of Civil Rights wing of the police. People's Watch-Tamil Nadu, a Madurai-based NGO, has taken up both cases with the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Source: Frontline