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The Murder of Servaaran, a Dalit Panchayat President

Fact-finding Investigation Report into the alleged murder of Servaaran, a Dalit Panchayat president from Thirunelveli District

REPORT

30th March, 2007

Introduction

Information from news paper reports and Dalit rights organisations revealed that Mr.Servaaran, a Dalit and newly elected village Panchayat President, aged around 65 years of Maruthankinaru Panchayat, Tirunelveli District, was allegedly murdered by upper caste Thevar people of the same panchayat. It is known that Mr.Harikrishnan (Thevar) husband of Ex-Panchayat President Ms.Poolammal had set up Servaaran to contest in the election so that he would function as a benami President. The present Vice-President of the Village Panchayat Sumathi (Thevar) and her husband Neliraja Rathinam due to a family dispute with Mr.Harikrishnan supported another dalit candidate Mr.Chelladurai (Pallar, Sub-caste) for the President's post. But Servaaran won the president's post in the election. Sumathi who was elected as Vice President did not want to work under a dalit (Arunthathiyar) President. She and her husband had on several occasions insulted Servaaran, Servaaran had filed two complaints against them in Panavadali Chathiram Police station. It is said that Sumathi and her husband threatened Servaaran with dire consequences for filing a complaint on them. On 19.2.07 around 5.30 am Servaaran was dead about 50 mtrs.from his residence.

Human Rights - Kalam, Tirunelveli, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF) together with Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) commissioned a Fact Finding Investigation into the death of Servaaran – Dalit Panchayat President, belonging to the Arundatiyar Community (Sub caste among Dalits) of Marthankinaru Panchayat, Kuruvikulam Panchayat Union, Tirunelveli District on 19.02.07.

The Fact Finding team conducted its investigation 27th February and 28th February 2007. The following is the composition of the Fact Finding Team.

1. Ms.Muthumari, President, Arunthathiyar Pengal Ezhuchi Iyakkam , Tirunelveli

2. Ms.Kamalakasthuri, M.L., Advocate, Fact Finding Coordinator, HRFDL – TN, Myladuthurai.

3. Ms. Krishnaveni, Coordinator, Human Rights Foundation, Chennai

4. Dr. S.Arulselvan, Deputy Director, TN Open University, Chennai

5. Prof. Jesu, Tirunelveli.

Government Officials with whom the team met and spoke to:

1. D.S.P - Mr. Balakrishnan

2. Dr. Ragupathi – One of the doctor who performed Post Mortem

Persons from whom evidence was collected:

1. Karupayee – Wife of Servaaran

2. Ramar - son of Servaaran

3. Sumathi – Vice President of Maruthankinaru Panchayat

4. Ms. Poolammal – Ex Panchayat President

5. Sami Durai –Vice President Sumathi's Father

6. Harikrishnan - Who supported Servaaran during election (including

election expenses)

7. Village People

Details about the Village

Maruthankinaru Panchayat comprises people from the Thevars caste, Pallars (dalit) and Arunthathiyars (dalit). Thevar comprises of more than 600 families, Pallars – 60 -70 families, and Arunthathiyars comprise of only 15 families. The village has a Primary School only. For High School the students have to travel to Sayamalai (3 kms away from the village) and for Higher Secondary School to Sankaran Koil (7 kms away)

The village does not have a Primary Health Care Centre. A village nurse comes once a week. To visit a hospital the villagers have to travel 4-7 Kms to Kalugumalai. There are some tiled houses (given under Government Group House Schemes) built during the previous term of panchayat council headed by Poolammal W/o.Harikrishnan's wife. Only small area has been allotted for the burial of Arunthathiyars portion of that area occupied by Pallars. At a time only one or two dead bodies can be buried. The pathway to burial ground is very narrow and rough.

Arunthathiyars don't have a separate place earmarked for toilet. They have to go to the Pallar's area only. They don't even have a place to dump their waste. They are working in land belonging to Thevars, and a few on the land owned by the Pallars. The women and the girls are working in the matchbox industry on a daily wage basis. They are get paid approximately Rs.40/-.per day.

The practice of two tumbler system is adopted in the tea shops. The son of Mr.Servaaran has completed ninth standard. Servaaran was working as an labourer in the lands owned by Thevars and Pallars. His son working as office assistant in St. Joseph Matric School, Nagercoil.

As Mr.Servaaran got his daughters married with less expenses. The third daughter Kaliammal (19years) is working in a match factory for daily wages (Rs.40 to 50 daily). Kaliammal's daily wage is the only source of income for the family.

Details about the election

Ms.Poolammal W/o.Harikrishnan (Thevar) was the elected president of Maruthankinaru for the period from 1996-2006. Mr.Harikrishnan was working as a benami for Poolammal. The two groups of the dominant caste people supported two separate dalit candidates. Mr.Servaaran was supported by the groups lead by Mr.Harikrishnan. In 2006 Panchayat election Maruthankinaru's Village Panchayat President seat was reserved for schedule caste. Thevar families in the village were divided into two groups. The other groups supported Mr. Chelladurai S/o Veerakumar who belongs to the Pallar sub-caste of the Dalit community. Servaaran, Chelladurai and Mookammal from Pallar Community contested for the post of President. Mr.Servaaran was elected as Panchayat President of Maruthankinaru by 509 votes. The following ward members and vice president were elected.

1. Sumathi (Thevar) Vice President w/o Neeli Raja Rathinam

2. Subramaniyam – Pallar (Ward Member)

3. Ramuthaye - Pallar (Ward Member)

4. Perumal Thevar – Thevar (Ward Member)

5. Velu - Konar (Ward Member)

6. Thavashi - Thevar (Ward Member)

Mr.Servaaran was working as sweeper during the previous terms of Ms.Poolammal. He was also working in the house of the President.

Ms. Poolammal (Ex-President) wife of Harikrishnan contested for the post of ward member, but she lost to Sumathi (Present Vice President) by one vote.

About the incident

Sumathi, Vice-President, is said to have an ongoing enmity with Mr. Harikrishnan. Harikrishnan is Neelarajaratinam's (husband of Sumathi) uncle. The 2 families already are engaged in several property disputes. The report given to Mr.Servaaran by Harikrishnan angered Sumathi. After the elections, Sumathi and her husband threatened Mr.Servaaran on several occasions and demanded total obedience to Vice-President and to approve her administration in Panchayat Office. Mr.Servaaran was not even allowed to sit in his chair. Only when government officials visited the office, he was allowed to sit on the chair. Ms.Sumathi, Vice-President with the help of panchayat clerk P.Selvam voluntarily took incharge in executing panchayat development work.

Condemning the authoritative behaviour of Vice-President Sumathi and her husband, Mr. Servaaran filed a complaint in Panavadali Chatiram Police Station on 27/12/2006 against Sumathi and her husband. When this act was questioned by Servaaran, they abused him using his caste name. Though the police refused to file Servaaran's complaint, due to pressure later they filed it in CSR. The police comportment the case.

On 26.01.2007 Servaaran gave another complaint against Sumathi for keeping the purchased street lights in her custody. The also police didn't register the case.

In there circumstances Mr. Servaaran was found dead while he went out in the early morning of 19.2.07. The dead body was found by a girl Kaliammal, a relative of Servaaran.

The D.S.P and inspector of Panavadalisathiram went to the spot and the body was sent to Sankarankovil Government Hospital for post mortem.

On 20.02.2007 morning and Mr.Servaaran's family along with 300 people staged a dharna near Sankarankoil Government Hospital demanding that Mr.Servaaran's death be recorded as murder in the FIR and arrest the murderers under SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

On hearing the murder of Mr.Servaaran, M.Bharathan Director, KALAM, Mr.Mariadhoss, President Arunthathiyar Mahasaba, Mr.S.Vijayakumar, Advocate, Gowthaman and Sathiyantha Kumar rushed to the Hospital where post mortem was being done. They refused to receive the body of Servaaran and protested to make a change in the FIR from 174 CRPC into sec.302 IPC and PA Sec.3(2) (5) SC/ST Act. According to post mortem report the body suffered from several internal injuries and blood clotting in the blood vessels. It may have occured due to the shock of external attack. Cadres from DPI, Puthithamizhagam, Adithamizar Peravai, Immanuval Peravai, Arunthathiyar Democratic Front also took part in the struggle. The demands of this struggle at this stage were.

1. Register the case under SC&ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 3(2) (5) SC/ST.

2. Pay Rs.2 lakhs as compensation for the affected family.

3. Mr.Raman S/o.Servaaran should be given a government job.

4. Immediate arrest of culprits

Statement of Witness

Mrs. Karupayee, Age 55/07 W/o Late. Servaraan Muruthankinaru

I am residing in Arunthathiyar colony of Maruthankinaru Village. My husband M. Servaraan s/o Mookandi was the Panchayat President of Maruthankinaru elected in October 2006. I have two sons and three daughters. My first son Ramar who is married, is working in a private school at Nagerkoil. My second son Perumal is also married, now working as daily wage labourer in Kottayam. My two daughters Pechhi, Ganapathi are married and living with their husbands. My last daughter Kali aged 19 is unmarried and lives with me and works in the match industry. My husband is an agricultural labourer. On 19.02.2007 (Monday) he took his torchlight and a stick at approximately 5.30 am to go to the toilet in a nearby thorn bush. At around 6.00 am Kaliammal D/o Ramar a relative came to my house with my husband's torchlight. She told me that my husband is lying down dead in the bush area. I was shocked and ran to the spot. My relatives, neighbours, Murugan s/o Saravaraan also came with me to the spot.

I found my husband's body lying facing the ground in the thorn bush and he was dead. The stick he used and one of his slippers was lying near by.

Mr. Harikrishnan and a section of the Thevars supported my husband during Panchayat election. Harikrishnan's wife Poolammal was Village Panchayat President for 15 years. But for all practical purposes Harikrishna functioned as the defacto Panchayat President. They assured us that if any problems arose they would support us". So my husband contested in the election and became the president. Even after he became the President he worked as Thotti of the Panchayat Office. He was not allowed to sit in his chair after becoming president. Once when officers from B.D.O office came in January he was permitted to sit in his chair.

In the 2nd week of January Vice-President Sumati and her husband Neelaraja Rathinam did some development works without the knowledge of my husband like street lights, changing the drinking water pipeline etc., My husband questioned them for this. In retaliation Sumathi (Vice-President) in front of many people, abused my husband using the most foul language and cursing him about his caste. Her husband also scolded my husband. So my husband registered a complaint against both of them twice in Panavadali Chatiram Police Station. The Police Officials called Sumati, and her husband to the Police Station. The called my husband also. They did not take any action against Sumathi and her husband.

Sumati and her husband threatened my husband for giving a complaint against them. My husband used to discuss all these problems with me and my daughter. We didn't disturb our son as they are working outstation.

We are sure that Vice-President Sumathi and her husband Neelaraja Ratinan killed my husband.

Ramar, S/o Servaaran

I have studied upto 9th Std. My father helped us in education. My father was working as servant to Harikrishnan's family. Harikrishnan financially helped us sometimes. 300 thevar families supported my father during elections. The other 300 thevars supported Chelladurai. Mr.Harikrishnan only spent Rs.50,000 for my father. My father also spent some of his own money during election. The present Vice President Sumathi and her family supported another candidate Chelladurai.

After elections, problem arose between Sumathi and my father. She and her husband Neelaraja Ratinam once abused my father saying "You Sakkiliyan dog, how dare you not obey us". After this incident my father filed complaint in Panavadali Police Station. But the police being in favour of Sumathi the case was just compromised. The second time also my father filed a complaint in the same station, but no action was taken. If they had taken any action, this death would not have happened. Our father was a sweeper in Panchayat Office located in the Thevar's area.

Often my father complained to my mother about the threats by the Vice-President. If we knew about these threats in advance we would have asked him to resign from the post. Police Officials and others tried to portray that my father was suffering from heart problem is a false statement. Three months ago my father had chickun Kunia fever and was treated for that. Otherwise he is a strong and healthy person.

On 19.2.07 early morning around 5.00am he went to the toilet in pallar's area as we don't have separate place for toilet. As it is very dark he took one stick and torch light with him. After sometime a relative girl R. Kaliammal who had also gone to toilet found a torch lying on the ground. She switching on the torch light and found Servaaran lying down on the ground. She came running and informed my mother and brother. We noticed swelling on the throat and chest. We tried to give him soda, did some first aid as we couldn't believe that our father was dead. In the meantime Harikrishnan went and informed the police. Then D.S.P and Panavadali Police Inspector came to our house. They took my father's body to Sankaran Koil Government Hospital. The police first registered a case under sec 174. After the protest by 300 people and various organisations police changed the FIR to sec 302 SC & ST Act. We received the body in the evening. After that the rituals and we buried our father.

I believe that the reasons for my father's death is

- Dominant caste hatred for dalits especially Arunthathiyar. They could not tolerate that a dalit being a president

- Complaint of my father in the police station against Vice President

- He refused to function as benamy president to Vice President.

Pechiammal– (Neighbour of Servaaran)

Servaaran is a good person. We all were happy that a person from our community became president. We thought many good things will come to our village. But from the day he became the president, problems arose. The dominant caste (Thevars) could not digest an Arunthathiyar as becoming a Panchayat President. We are depending on them for our work, as coolies. Our children are working in match factory in Meenthuzhi.

Sumathi- Vice President of Maruthankinaru

My father is a hindu and mother is a christian. I studied upto Xstd. I am 22 years old. Servarran is a very soft person. We don't have any problem. Before his death I didn't even know his house. When I was a child Servaaran was working as a coolie in my husband's family.

Problem arose only because of Mr. Harikrishnan is intervention during the election. My husband's father and Mr.Harikrishnan are relatives and have an ongoing property dispute. So Harikrishnan doesn't like me as I come from his enemy's family to become a ward member. His wife Poolammal Ex-president also contested as ward member. But she lost to me by one vote. I was elected as Vice President.

Even after Servaaran became a president, he used to work in the house of Harikrishnan. He was fully guided by Harikrishnan. Twenty days after election of panchayat council 2 Gram Sabha meetings were held. I never scolded him using his caste name. I don't have any problem with him. He will always be in Harikrishnan's house. My husband thought of complaining to the BDO that the panchayat office is not opened daily. Whenever there is a meeting in Panchayat Office Mr. Harikrishnan also used to come with Servaaran.

Servaaran used to sit in his chair and we all sit near by him. When we received street lights for our Panchayat, the Panchayat clerk told my husband to fix the persons for putting the street lights on. But Servaaran gave complaint in police station that I have not handed over 7 tubes to him. Police Inspector called me to the police station for an enquiry where I told Inspector that I handed over the bulbs to Servaaran within 4 days.

Servaaran's brother's wife told me he was having chest pain. He had treatment in Sayamalai Government Hospital. Every one knows that on 18.02.07 night he went to a death ceremony in Arasappatti. There he consumed alcohol and ate beef etc., This has reresulted in heart attack. Mr.Harikrishnan is now trying to change in to murder to take vengeance on me.

Police came and arrested my husband. He was in Police custody for 2 days, after realising that this death wasn't a murder, police released my husband. My husband is working as Post Master and is also doing some share market business. I also help my husband from home in his business.

Poolammal- Ex Panchayat President (40 Years age)

Servaaran is like my brother. He is a nice person and is very close to my family as we know him from my childhood. He had trouble in functioning as Panchayat President . He was not allowed to sit in his chair in Panchayat Office.

On 18.2.07 Servaaran went to attend a death ceremony with my son in-law. There he did not consume alcohol. Before going for the ceremony he cleaned the drainage in our house. He was a healthy person. 3 months before he took treatment for chickun guinea but did not suffer from any chest pain. Once Sumathi Vice President abused Servaaran calling him by his caste name.

Samithurai– Sumathi's Father

Harikrishnan has a long standing enemity with my son in – law Neelaraja Ratinam. His wife Poolammal was Panchayat President for 10 years (1996-2006). This time our Village Panchayat Presidents seat was reserved for Schedule Caste. She contested for ward member, but lost to my daughter Sumathi. So problems arose between them. She gave a false complaint against my daughter in the Women's police station. Srinivasan relative of Servaaran wanted to contest in the election. He was an ex military person. But Harikrishnan told Srinivasan not to contest in the election. Servaaran was a sweeper in Panchayat office.

An agreement between Harikrishnan and Servaaran before election was "that he would not interfere in the panchayat administration but would get a monthly remuneration on several occasions. Harikrishnan ordered and abused Servaaran and forced him to obey his words. Harikrishnan was bogusly signing cheques. Harikrishnan instigated Servaaran to complaint against my daughter about corruption in erection of street lights. I also went to the police station with my daughter. There we compromised with each other.

Government Officials:

Panavadali chatiram Police Station writer Rajayaa

I have no powers to talk about this case. Strict order came to us that only the inspector and D.S.P should talk about this case.

D.S.P. Mr. Balakrishnan

On 19.02.07 at approximately 5.30 am, Harikrishnan phone Panavadali Chatiram police Station and informed the personnel on duty that somebody killed Panchayat President Mr. Servaaran. We went to the spot. The body at that time was kept in his house. Servaaran relatives were trying to revive him with some treatment (giving soda etc.)

We went to the spot of death but no evidence of any incident was there. Two ladies saw him while he came to that area for toilet. The stick he took was there. The girl who saw the dead body first took his torch light. She said Servaaran was lying upside down in that area. Servaaran's wife told her husband used to get chest pain often and one Dr. Xavier (an unqualified doctor) had administered an injection to Servaaran for heart pain a week ago.

On 19.2.07 morning he went to toilet as he was feeling uneasy. From there he shouted "Kaliamma" but before anyone could reach him, he fell unconsious.

Then we took his body to Sankarankoil Government Hospital for post mortem. We registered a case under section 174. Some group of people with Servaaran's family came and protested in the hospital that "We want a Dalit doctor to do post mortem. The 2 doctors as signed to perform post mortem were not dalits. But due to the people's demand we assigned Dr.Ragupathy a dalit also to do the post mortem.

Post Mortem Report said that there was bleeding in left side ventricle and rupture in the lungs. Based on these conclusions we changed the FIR to sec302 and SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act). When we investigated we also came to know that Servaaran often uses injection for heart pain. Many cardiologists said that heart attacks also do occur due to stress while passing motion and there is chances of getting a heart attacks are more in the early mornings.

The motive here is money Mr. Harikrishnan supported Servaaran for the post of president. But he wanted to control him. Sumathi and her husband Neela Rajarathinam accepted the charges mentioned in Servaaran's complaint to police. But they refused the murder charge. There is no evidence, and no finger prints. We need more evidence to prove the murder. So we decided to send for chemical analysis. After chemical analysis we will proceed with further investigation.

Servaaran's son Ramar urged for a CID enquiry. We are ready to hand over the case to CB-CID. Law and order is comparatively improved within 4 years in Nellai. Places like Panavadali and Pavoor Chatiram area are the worst for caste atrocities. In Pavoor Chatiram election were not allowed to be conducted. To solve these problems a meeting of dalit presidents and dominant caste Vice Presidents is proposed to be convened by the District Collector. This is very necessary.

If necessary we will take action against Panavadali Chatiram police officials for not taking action about Servaaran's two complaints. If the chemical analysis report is negative no compensation will be paid. RDO has assured Ramar (Servaaran's son) that he will get a government job. Many times we are struggling to prove cases against dalits. Because often it will end up in compromise.

Dr.Ananda Sanmugaraj, M.S., Assistant Medical Officer, Sankaran Koil G.H.

In the case of Panavadali Chathira Police Station Cr.No.64/07, 174 CrPC I was requested by Panavadali Chathiram Police Inspector to do a postmortem on the body of Servaaran. I received the application from Ramasamy, Tha.Ka. 1810 on 19.02.2007 at 2.00 pm. in the Hospital as mentioned in the application form I with Women Medical Officer Ms.Krishnaveni, MBBS, DGO, jointly conducted the postmortem on Servaaran's body. There was no external injury on the body of Servaaran. When we cut open an investigated internally we found the below mentioned injuries.

1. In the left ventricle of the heart there was a small injury

2. Surrounding the heart in the Pericardium area we found 1 liter of clotted blood.

3. Rupture in left side lungs.

4. In the Peritorial cavity we found 50 ml of clotted blood.

After we receive chemical analysis report we will be able to arrive at the cause for the above stated injuries and for the death.

Dr.Raghupathy (Medical Officer who conducted the post mortem)

Final opinion cannot be given at present. Only after chemical analysis we can say anything. The death may be homicide or suicide. There is a 60% change of it being an unnatural death and 40% change for natural death. We will refer the chemical analysis to TVMC (Forensic department).

Post Mortem was conducted for 2 1/2 hrs. When injury is caused by an act of falling down or attack by others, clotting and bleeding will occur. The present situation is not yet clear but more in favour of murder.

If the chest is hit strongly by another person, or is hit with a ruler wrapped in a cloth, or hit with a blunt object, there is every possibility of internal injury. This is because between the rib and the sternum there is only 5 cm distance and so it is flexible. Without causing external injury death / murder can happen.

Findings

1. The Fact Finding team concludes after examining all evidence before it that the death of Mr. Servaaran, Panchayat President of Maruthankinaru Panchayat was not a natural death but is the case of murder caused by dominant caste people pointing specifically to Sumathi the Vice-President of the Panchayat and her husband and the Former President Poolammal and her husband Harikrishnan.

2. The police of Panavadali Chathiram Police Station without proper investigation first filed the case under sec 174 CrPC. After people's protest and supported by the post mortem report the police changed the FIR and filed the case under IPC section 302 sec 3(2) (v) of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) 1989. The two earlier complaints filed in the same police station about abuse and harrasment caused by Sumathi, Vice-President of the Panchayat and her Husband were ignored and no action was taken by the police.

3. The post mortem report reveals that the person did not die a natural death but suffered from several internal injuries caused by external force. We conclude that Servaaran was murdered and the police version that he was suffering from cardiac ailments and hence died a natural death is completely false and not sustained by the postmortem report.

4. Servaaran's case is one among the several Panchayat Presidents who have been elected in reserved constituencies supported by Dominant caste votes. He was working as an agricultural labourer and also performing other tasks in the Ex.Panchayat President Poolammal's house. Her husband Mr. Harikrishnan (Thevar) supported Servaaran financially in the election. In the election to the Village Panchayat Wards Poolammal was defeated by Sumathi (present Vice-President in the 2006 election). Sumathi and her husband Neelarajarathinam had supported other dalit candidate Chelladurai in the election who had lost to Servaaran. This dispute and Servaaran being seen as a benami of Mr.Harikrishnan and not willing to listen to the dictates of the Vice-President Sumathi combined with caste hatred for the Arunthathiyar family was the motive behind the murder of Servaaran.

5. Servaaran though financially supported by one lobby of the Thevar Caste after the election attempted to function independent as a president. But this was not tolerated by the Vice-President Sumathi of the same Panchayat. So Servaaran faced continuous harassment and abuse by Sumathi and her Husband.

6. After the Panchayat Election 2006. On 19th February Servaaran a Arudhathiyar Panchayat President of Nakkalanmutthanpatti Panchayat in the Kuruvikulam Union was brutally killed by the Vice President of the same Panchayat. Even then the Tirunelveli District Government Officials and Police Officials have made no effort in to provide protection to the vulnerable dalit Panchayat Presidents. Dalit Panchayat Presidents continue to live in insecurity. Among 5 dalit Panchayat Presidents in Kuruvikulam Union, 2 were died. Other 3 are also functioning as benamy leaders and they are under threats. They are Apanery - Ms. Chellammal (Arundhadhiyar) – Working as sweeper in a hospital, Ramalingapurarm – P. Ganesan (Arunthathiyar), Illairasanenthal – S. Sundararaj (Parayar)

7. After the Constitution 73rd Amendment this is the 3rd Election for Panchayats in Tamil Nadu. The previous elections were held in 1996 and 2001. In 2001 the Government did not pass orders for rotation of reserved seats for Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and Women. Accordingly there was some measure of consolidation of independent and identity of elected Panchayat Members from among the dalits and women. With DMK Government opting to put on rotation the reserved seat the dominant caste groups have used this occasion to support and finance candidates from among the weaker dalit communities in order to be able to disempowered them and make them subservient for their control over the panchayat government. Servaaran case is one among the several panchayats presidents who have been elected in reserved constituencies supported by Dominant caste votes. In Servaaran case he attempted to function independently and even this was not tolerable to the Thevar caste and hence he was murdered.

8. The quality of life and economic and social status of dalits especially among the minority sub-caste Arunthathiyar community has not improved as can be seen from this panchayat. They do not have access to portable drinking water, street lights and are totally landless and so are dependent on the Thevars who are the land owners.

9. District Government officials and Police officials have made no effort in Tirunelveli District to provide protection to the vulnerable dalit panchayat presidents. There is no plan by the Government of Tamil Nadu to provide them with special awareness programmes about their rights on priority basis, land distribution of cultivable lands and ineffective use of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Dalit Panchayat Presidents continue to live in insecurity.

Conclusion & Recommendations

1. We condemn the failure of the ruling DMK government for not publicly condemning the murders of Mr.Jaggaian and Mr.Servaaran Dalit Panchayat Presidents and the government's failure to issue a stern warning to all dominant caste forces to stop the practice of brutal attacks on dalits and practicing several forms of discrimination.

2. We also condemn the silence of the DMK alliance partners Congress(s) and PMK and opposition AIADMK and the MDMK for not taking any steps to restore a sense of security and guarantee for right to life security and dignity to dalits and panchayat presidents in Tirunelveli and specifically in Kurivikulam Panchayat Union.

3. We recommend that the Government of Tamil Nadu, keeping in mind the very poor economic status of dalit landless agricultural labourers especially the Arunthathiyar sub-caste among dalits, immediately provide each family with 3 acres of cultivable land and subsidized credit to enable them to be able to take care of their livelihood needs and reduce their dependency on the dominant castes. Further their households / villages should be provided with all basic facilities like excess to schools, public health care centres, balwadies, potable water, roads, street and household electricity (subsidized) etc.

4. We recommend that the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Thiru.M.Karunanithi and the Minister for Rural Development and Local Administration invite a delegation of eminent dalit personalities, dalit organisations and human rights organisations for a discussion to find solutions to the denial of panchayat presidents doing allow to function and constantly facing threats to their life. This meeting should also outline steps to be taken by the Government to stop the violence and denial of the rights of dalit panchayat president in Tirunelveli district and other districts in Tamil Nadu.

5. We urge that Minister for Rural Development and Local Administration together with the Minister from the Local Constituency in Tirunelveli and the District Collector to organise and definitely participate in panchayat meetings where dalit presidents are forced to function as benamies and are facing threats to their life. For a start you could begin with the 40 vulnerable panchayats with dalit presidents identified in Tirunelveli District by the District Collector. This is very necessary to build confidence among these Presidents and the dalit community as a whole and revive faith in local government institutions.

6. Action should be taken against all persons who are responsible for various types of offences against the presidents including verbal and physical abuse forced signing of cheque books, prevention of entry into the panchayat office, not handing over registers and cheque books, etc.

7. Servaaran is not the only dalit President to face hostile dominant caste forces, immediate steps must be initiated by government political parties and / or organizations of civil society to hold public enquiries of all such dalit panchayat presidents facing torture discrimination and abuse and the enquiry must be headed by a sitting judge of the Madras High Court who should be a dalit. Most important is for the district administration to monitor such vulnerable dalit Presidents and ensure that they are abiding to function without fear, independently and effectively from their panchayat office.

8. Atleast rupees five lakhs must be paid to the family from the Chief Ministers Relief Fund. Investigation shows how even senior officers of the District Administration attempt to confuse the fact that once a dalit family is paid relief under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act then the C.M. Fund will not operate. This is a deception and must be condemned and action taken against such officers. Both the reliefs are distinct and a right of the victim and the minimum cost of reparation.

9. Two members of Servaaran's family must be given permanent government jobs immediately in the nearby vicinity.

10. We urge the police prosecution and the judiciary to treat this case requiring speedy justice to the victim and his family, completes the trial in a speedy fair and just manner and convicts the accused for this premeditated cruel murder with maximum punishment of life imprisonment. We urge the district administration to ensure protection to all witnesses and treat any actions of threat to witnesses as a grave violation of the criminal justice system.

11. We urge NGO's and the government to identify all dalit panchayat presidents who are vulnerable to dominant class and caste forces and provide them maximum support in terms of government benefits to the family, scholarship for the children, distribution of cultivable lands, government employment for family members, protection from threats by "upper caste forces" and provide trainings to enable them to administer the panchayats effectively without dependence on dominant caste forces.

12. Elections for the post of village panchayat presidents in Maruthankinaru Panchayat must be held within the next 30 days with full support of the district administration and monitoring by NGO's, dalit rights organisations and human rights organisations to ensure fair and free elections. The elected dalit panchayat president must be given full support by the district administration and training by NGO's to enable the elected president to function effectively and independently.

13. From our experience over the last ten years with sensitizing dalit and women Presidents about administering panchayat government we have been repeatedly informed by Dalit Presidents that the cheque signing power vested also with the Vice President who invariably belongs to a dominant caste group creates several obstacles to their functioning as Presidents. They have requested that the post of Vice-Presidents should also be reserved for dalits in a village panchayat were the President seat is reserved for dalit. This, they say, will enable them to function more effectively. We support this suggestion of Dalit President and request that the Government of Tamil Nadu consider such an amendment and policy decision in the case of village panchayats reserved for dalits, men and women.

14. In those panchayats where dalit presidents are not allowed to function by a dominant caste groups the existing clerical assistant should be changed and the panchayat presidents given full freedom of making fresh appointments of only dalit clerical assistant.

15. Servaaran, a democratically elected panchayat leader was prevented by dominant caste forces from exercising his legitimate fundamental rights and threatened to behave as a dummy of the caste forces. This resulted in his death. These forces believe that dalits can be used as benamis to destroy they very purpose of decentralized participatory democracy. This is a mockery of democracy. We condemn all such undemocratic and fascist practices by dominant caste groups and call for an immediate halt to all forms of dalit oppression and discrimination.

[Courtesy: Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation]

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