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Attacks on Dalits in Koothirambakkam near Chennai

(Fact finding report first published in April 2003 by PUCL)

Team members

1. Sheelu, President, Tamil Nadu Women's Collective

2. T.S.S. Mani PUCL, Chennai - Chengai District Committee.

3. Ponnuthai, Women's Forum Against Violence on Women, South Tamil Nadu.

4. W.G.Latha - Tamil Nadu Resource Team.

5. Jessy , Kanchi People's Forum

6. Mahesh, Kanchi People's Forum

7. Kannan, human Rights - Tamil Nadu Initiative

8. Pasarai Selvaraj, Dalith Activist, Kancheepuram

9. Mahandran, Kanchi People's Forum

The above team from different parts of Tamil Nadu concerned about social harmony and human rights are pained by the communal clash at Koothirambakkam, in Kancheepuram District on 29th March 2003. Hearing about the incident on the same night, human rights activists from Kancheepuram rushed to the village on 30th March 2003 in the early hours. The team has met both sides of the community. It has met with the daliths as well as the vanniar representatives, particularly the village Panchayath President Ms.Kasthuri.

Description of incident

Koothirambakkam village lies about 15 kms from kancheepuram on the National High way. This village consists of around 300 families of caste Hindus predominantly vanniars and about 58 dalit families. The dalit colony is prominent by the group houses constructed by the state government. The clashes between the caste hindus and dalits is a long standing one. There are several incidents of caste clashes on village deity festival celebrations, leasing temple land, etc.,

Many a times the villages under the leadership of Mr.Madurai has threatened to convert to Islam. Everytime the District administration seems to have appeased them with some immediate benefits. It is believed that 3 years back the district administration gave fishing permission in the Periyeri tank which lies 5 kms away from the village to the dalits and this permission was got in the name of Mr.Arumugam. The same year when they decided to catch fish there was heavy rain and they were not able to catch fish in the particular season. Since then every year when the dalits attempted the caste hindus objected. The year 2003 being an unusually drought year, Periyeri tank was almost empty and the dalits decided to execute their rights.

They sold their right to a Kancheepuram based fishing community which is locally referred to as Sembadavars. On Friday they approached the local Panchayat President Ms.Kasthuri wife of Mohan who happened to be a caste hindu seeking permission to catch fish. They however denied permission saying that fishing would leave the tank water very slushy and it will be difficult to use the water for irrigation purpose. The dalits realised that by denying permission to them the vanniars have already started stealing the fish from the tank and so they decided to execute their rights on Saturday the 29th March. Eight fishing community members and around 10 dalit community members went to the tank for fishing around 2 p.m. Nearly 200 members from the vanniar community came with deadly weapons to the tank and objected and there were wordly quarrel. The use of derogative words against paraiyar caste resulted in clash. The vanniar group caught hold of 8 members and they were beaten and locked inside the Perumal temple which is located in the vanniar side of the village around 4 p.m. Of these 8 people 2 were from the fishing community (Mr.Durai Nadar and Mr.Ramakrishnan) and the other 6 were dalits.

Those dalits who were chased away from the tank ran to the colony. The caste hindu group which preceded to the dalit colony after the lockup show under the leadership of their panchayat president Kasthuri with sticks, Sickles and stones. They stoned the dalits and ransacked the group houses and huts. Household articles, cycles were broken to pieces and is found scattered all over the colony. They beat up old persons who were unable to run for safety. Mr Pandurangan S/o of Anandan whose house was broken and was pulled out of the house and beaten up. The incident was reported at the taluk office by Mr. Madurai around 3 p.m. When many of them ran to the fields, they were beaten up in the fields also. All these incidents happened in a matter of one hour. The people who ran away reported at the local police station.

The police came to the village around 8 p.m. and rescued the locked up people and they also took the injured to the Kancheepuram government hospital. About 18 injured are admitted in the hospital of whom 11 are women and 7 are men. The oldest is Visalam wife of Velu 80 years old and the youngest Rajiv Gandhi 12 yers old son of Murugan. It is said that 3 children Raja (14 years), Rajesh (8 years), Anbu (9years) are found missing from the village. Ms. Amsaveni W/o Anandan, who was returning to the village after some errand at Kancheepuram was beaten up in the field on her way back to the village. The FIR was filed on the basis of her statement.

Findings

  • The tentacles of untouchability entangle the dalit people even though they stand so close to the State Capital Chennai.
  • The dalit people are panic striken and could not go for job or send their children to school which is situated in the vanniar area.
  • The clashes are common and frequent where only the dalit casuality is high.
  • Three children Raja (14 yrs), Rajesh (8 yrs) and Anbu (9 yrs) are missing from the incident time.
  • Old women, men and children were the main targets.
  • There is an ongoing clash between the community particularly the recent incident of government ordering re-auction of Pillaiyar palayam, Thirumateeswarar temple land as Dalit protested the Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments department's failure to inform both the community.
  • The caste hindu women leading the clash with deadly weapons in hand shows the degree of prevailing caste hatred.
  • The attack on hapless old persons like Visalam (80 years), Ekambaram (75 years), Annammal (70Years) and Shanmugam (70Years) shows the extend of cruelty of the caste hindus.

Recommendations

We would like to place before the government of Tamil Nadu and the Public the following:

  • Steps must be taken immediately to give confidence to the members of the dalit community by giving full protection and taking rehabilitation methods immediately.
  • The dalit of Koothirambakkam have to be compensated for the losses incurred by those families by the district authorities.
  • The dalit colony is minority colony and so protection must be given to them from the caste hindu community.
  • Cases have been filed against the caste hindus under section 147, 148, 234, 307, 312, 506/2 and 1989 SC/ST prevention of atrocities act , immediate action should be taken. On the FIR.
  • All injured dalits should be adequately compensated under 1989 SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
  • The long pending issues of the temple deity festival should be peacefully negotiated by the district authority.

List of injured

1. Mr. Pandurangan S/o. Anandan (18 yrs)

2. Ms. Amsaveni W/o Anandan (35 yrs )

3. Mr. Karunanidhi S/o.Sanmugam (40yrs)

4. Ms.Thenniammal W/o Jayaraman (35 yrs)

5. Mr. Shanmugam S/o Ellan (70 yrs)

6. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi S/o.Murugan (12 yrs)

7. Ms. Annamal W/o Erangasamy (70 yrs)

8. Mr. Duraisamy S/o.Sanjeevi (55 yrs)

9. Mr. Subramani S/o Karuppan (50 yrs)

10. Ms. Vanitha W/o Kuttiappan (40 yrs)

11. Ms. Padma W/o Kanniappan (37 yrs)

12. Ms. Batha W/o.Madurai veeran (34 yrs)

13. Mr. Velmurugan S/o Arumugam (35 yrs)

14. Ms. Chellamal S/o Mari (22 yrs)

15. Ms. Visalam W/o. Velu (80 yrs)

16. Ms. Krishnaveni W/o. Sundaram (55 yrs)

17. Mr. Murugasen S/o.Durai (45 yrs)

18. Ms. Athirupavathi S/o. Sundaram (25 yrs)

19. Mr. Ekambaram S/oNeenchimotha (75 yrs)

[Courtesy: PUCL, April, 2003]

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