Tamil Nadu: Dalit family in Thoothukudi allegedly denied use of road to crematorium

Locals claim that the discriminatory act of restricting access to public roads for Dalit funerals has been going on for decades


On February 11, the family of a 72-year-old man from the Pallar community, which is classified as Scheduled Caste, was barred from accessing a public road going to the common crematorium in the Thoothukudi district’s Naduvakurichi. The Nadar community, classified as the Other Backward Class (OBC), allegedly denied the family access to the road, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Mannarkaravai panchayat, to carry out the funeral procession. The Nadars refused to let the Dalit family take the funeral procession down the main road, forcing them to go through the rice fields instead. According to village resident, this is one of several such occurrences that have occurred in the area, a common tool of discrimination used by the OBCs.

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T Shanmugam, a local activist and PhD scholar in Economics from MS University, Tirunelveli spoke to The News Minute and said that this kind of discrimination has been prevalent for many decades in the area. People are forced to use the paddy fields instead of the road that is common to four villages. Sharing a similar experience, Shanmugan told the News Minute that in the year 2018, when his father died, he had carried out a protest until he was able to take his father’s body through the main road. He had even threatened to leave his father’s body on the road itself if he was not allowedto go through. Shanmugam said that this was a rare incident when someone from the Pallar community was able to use the road for a funeral procession, but since his father was a former Union government employee, his family is given a certain amount of respect. He added by clarifying that despite the success in his case, nothing has changed for others.

According to the News Minute, Shanmugan further claimed that the Nadars’ discriminatory behavior is enabled by the Maravar community, which also belongs to the OBC caste. Maravars are members of Tamil Nadu’s politically strong Thevar caste cluster.

Pattern of ostracization of Dalits in Tamil Nadu

  • Human faeces dumped in water tank meant for Dalits

In December 2022, an incident of dumping human faeces in water meant for Dalit was reported from Tamil Nadu, which could top the list of abhorrent and inhuman crimes against Dalits this country has ever seen. As per the media reports, this incident was reported from Pudukottai’sVellanur, Tamil Nadu wherein human excreta was found dumped in a water tank meant for the Dalit community in the village. This got discovered when a child fell ill and the doctor suggested that the drinking water must be the cause. That is when the villagers checked the water tank and found the faeces in the 10,000-litre water tank.

Moksha Gunavalagan, a political activist in the area had told NDTV that a huge quantity of faeces was found dumped inside the water tank, so much so the water had turned yellow. Without knowing that, for a week or so, the people were drinking this water. When children fell ill — that’s when the truth came out.

The generations of discrimination and injustice endured by the Dalits in the village were brought to light as a result of this tragedy. When District Collector Kavitha Ramu and District Police Chief Vandita Pandey visited the area, the Dalit villagers told them that they had not been permitted into the village temple for three generations. Even the village tea store has a special set of glasses for them.

  • Dalit youth dies by suicide after ‘upper caste’ men violently attacked him

In December 2022, another caste-based crime from the state of Tamil Nadu came to light. In this case, a 19-year-old Dalit Christian boy died by suicide as he was allegedly scared by the threats to him and his family from Vanniyar caste men., after they had beaten him up. The incident took place in Surapattu, Villupuram on Puducherry-Sengam Road where the deceased boy, Raja Marianathan was assaulted by these men and also foisted a false case against him of bike theft. The Vanniyar and Pariah community live on either side of the road. The family of the deceased refused to accept Raja’s body and were protesting outside Mundiyampakkam government hospital demanding the arrest of the accused men as well as compensation for the family.

Raja, who belonged to the Pariah community, died by suicide on December 23. As per the residents, on December 21, Raja and his friends were out for dinner when Raja tried to help an elderly man from Vanniyar caste to fetch some water in front of a house. However, as per Raja’s father, when the man’s son-in-law, Moorthy, opened the door and saw Raja at his doorstep, he got furious and asked how a Pariah man dared to come to his house and knock on the door. Then, Moorthy and his two friends, Mohan and Suresh, under the influence of alcohol allegedly assaulted Raja. Raja was rescued by his friend, Sebastian and Vinoth who took him to the hospital where he had to get stitches on face and torso, reported The News Minute. Moorthy and others lodged a false case of bike theft on Raja to counter his complaint of assault by them. Another version said that Raja was beaten up for entering the street where dominant caste families live, reported The New Indian Express.

Post this heinous crime, Citizens for Justice and peace (CJP) wrote to DGP, Tamil Nadu and SP, Villupuram, raising concerns over this serious caste based crime. CJP, in its letter had urged that after due inquiry, the accused be arrested and that protection is provided to the family as per section 15A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

  • Over 200 Dalits Enter Village Temple in Tiruvannamalai Amid Protests From Dominant Castes

In January 2023, over 200 members of the Scheduled Caste groups defied a ‘ban’ enforced by the dominant castes by entering the Sri Muthaalamman temple in Thenmudiyanur village, Tiruvannamalai district. On January 30, after seven decades of being ostracized, they were escorted into the 200-year-old temple with the assistance of the local administration and heavily armed police.Hundreds of members belonging to the privileged communities held a protest in opposition.



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