Relentless attacks on dalits

Published on: July 1, 2000
Murders and attacks on dalits continue unabated, 
in UP and in Tamil Nadu 

Three Dalit youths were  killed in the most brutal  fashion by members of the  Vanniar caste, on the night  of May 26 at Puliyangudi a small village near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu simply because the Dalits of the village had been objecting to the illicit arrack business in the area dominated by the Vanniarr caste. Vellaian, Mathiyalagan and Gandhi, the three Dalit youths, all of them agricultural labourers, were killed while sleeping under a tree. 

Persons belonging to the Vanniar caste control the illicit arrack business in that area. Dalit women had been objecting to the illicit arrack business. In the last week of May, unknown persons destroyed some pots containing illicit arrack. The Vanniars summoned a meeting of the village panchayat, and ordered Dalits to pay Rs. 5,000 as penalty for destroying the arrack pots. But Dalits denied their involvement and refused to pay the amount. 

Meanwhile, a few days later a youth belonging to the Vanniar caste came to the Dalit hamlet in the night and attempted to rape a Dalit girl named Prabhavathi. Relatives of the girl with the help of the others caught him and tied him to a tree. Later he escaped. Next morning four Dalit women went to a Pandian who is the husband of the Panchayat board president and urged his intervention. His advice to Dalits was not to register a police complaint about the attempt to rape. In response to the Dalits ‘exercising restraint’, the very next night these murders took place! 

Puliyangudi is a village notorious for communal violence. About 120 Dalit families live there, but the strength of the Vanniars with 1,500 families is much more. The ill treatment of Dalits at the hands of Vanniars is common. Only last year, Vanniar boys raped two Dalit girls. Each time the Dalits have been coerced into silence fearing reprisals. 

Way back in 1946, an ex–serviceman named Vadamalai belonging to the Dalit community was tied up to a tree and tortured. His offence? Growing a moustache! Then, Dalit men were not allowed to grow moustaches, wear chappals or new dresses. Dalit women were not allowed to cover the upper part of their bodies. 

After the Vadamalai incident, Dalit leader L. Elayaperumal went there evacuated the Dalits and settled them in a nearby village called Pillaiyarthangal. The district authorities ordered the Vanniars to pay Rs.1,000 to Dalits as compensation and resettled them. But even now the ill treatment continues. 

The nexus between the illicit arrack sellers, politicians, and the local police does much harm to innocent people. In the last two years, about 20 Dalits have been killed in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. In the month of May alone, five Dalits have been killed. Members of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) visited the village, Puliyangudi on May 28, 2000 and met the parents of the victims. Completely paralysed with fear they pleaded for an alternate place to live in security. The Dalits named 28 persons involved in the violence. 

A case has been filed under section 302 of the IPC and 3(2)(5) of the SC/ST P.A.ACT 1989. Following a call for a protest by the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), the police arrested three innocent persons and compensation paid to the victims’ families. But the demand for a CBI inquiry was rejected. 

A spate of murders of Dalits in UP
A spate of killings of Dalits in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh during May put the BJP’s Ram Prakash Gupta government in a tight spot. On May 1, the police allegedly shot four landless labourers belonging to the Jatav community dead in Tundla (Ferozebad district), eager to ‘solve’ a dacoity case. Even after the killings, the district administration would not hand over the bodies of the dead. When close relatives gheraoed the police station to demand release of the bodies they were mercilessly thrashed; even the widows of the victims were not spared.

Within days, Hardoi was rocked by more Dalit deaths when a policeman belonging to the upper caste shot dead four Dalit youth. The motive? To avenge the humiliation he faced from his own community members when his daughter eloped and married a Dalit.