People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 36

September 06, 2009

TAMILNADU

 

Recent Struggles & Victories on Dalit Issues 

   

P Sampath

 

TWO years have passed since the formation of the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) on August 16, 2007.  Since then, we intensified struggles against the practice of untouchability and against atrocities on dalits and notable victories were achieved.

 

UTHAPURAM ISSUE

 

Uthapuram is a small village situated in Madurai district.  A wall called untouchability wall was built some 20 years back separating the caste Hindus and dalits. It came to the notice of TNUEF and the Front exposed the issue to the public and the media.  Continued struggle by TNUEF  and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for removing the wall in order to pave way for dalits to enter into the common space in the village yielded result and the untouchability wall was demolished by the government.  In the same area, a new road was laid.  Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI(M) along with state leaders of the Party visited the village in June 2008 and the entire dalit people in the village  gave a rousing reception to him.   But the oppressive forces could not digest this and they blocked the new road with stones and sand so as to prevent dalits to enter through their area.  Women belonging to caste Hindus were induced to wash their clothes on the road itself.   Their intention was to create law and order problem.  Even after lodging a complaint about this with the local police, nothing tangible had been done to arrest this.  Naturally this had created unrest and agitation among dalits.

 

In this background, a quarrel between caste Hindus and dalits erupted when some youths belonging to caste Hindus cleaned a temple, where dalits were not allowed to enter.  Instead of taking action against the law breakers, the police entered the dalits´┐Ż hamlets and beat the people with lathis, not even sparing   women, children and elders.  Many houses were smashed and their household articles were damaged.  Many including children, pregnant women, elders were severely injured.  Due to thepolice atrocities, dalits lost lakhs of rupees by way of damage to their house, household articles etc.

 

Condemning this brutal attack, the CPI(M), TNUEF and mass organisations organised a powerful demonstration at Madurai, demanding the Tamilnadu government to order a judicial enquiry but nothing was done even after our struggle.  Therefore, Ponnuththaai, district secretary of Madurai unit of AIDWA filed a writ petition in the Madurai bench of Tamilnadu High Court, demanding judicial enquiry into police atrocities on Uthapuram dalits and sought compensation to the victims and punishment to the culprits under 1989 Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act.

 

The High Court appointed a commission consisting of two judges to enquire into the incidents and directed to report its findings to the High Court.  The judicial commission visited Uthapuram village and enquired the people.  All the victims were present before the commission and narrated the incidents and submitted proper affidavits.  The leaders of CPI(M), TNUEF and mass organisations have also presented themselves before the commission and gave their evidences.  The police, government officials were also enquired by the commission.  Finally the commission submitted its report to the High Court.  The report noted that the police assaults and excesses against Uthapuram dalits were true and recommended for a compensation of Rs 15 lakhs to the victims.  The Tamilnadu government objected to the findings of the report.  But the High Court has passed an interim order to pay compensation to the victims to the tune of Rs 10 lakhs by the government.  Nirmala Rani, advocate and counsel for AIDWA and an office bearer of AIDWA, while welcoming the interim order of the High Court, pleaded for more compensation and also for taking action against police under 1989 Prevention of atrocities on SC/ST Act.  The Court has adjourned the case for further hearings and for final order.  The Interim Order of the High Court is a notable victory in the legal battle for the cause of dalits.  The entire dalits from Uthapuram village are enthused with the Court verdict.  They congratulated AIDWA, TNUEF and CPI(M) leaders for achieving this victory.

 

SUB QUOTA FOR ARUNTHATHIARS

 

Another major victory during this period is the achievement of three per cent sub-quota within SC quota for Arunthathiar community, which is the most oppressed section among dalits, ie., dalit among dalits.  The CPI(M) and TNEUF have conducted several struggles including picketing before government offices for this demand.  The state government, though accepted this demand in principle a year back, has issued the final order only on May 27, 2009.  Now the sub-quota for Arunthathiar community is being implemented and thousands of students from this community will be benefited by getting admission into professional colleges, such as medical, engineering, etc.  By this order, eligible youths from Arunthathiar community will henceforth get employment in state government organisations, state public sector and government aided schools.  Large number of Arunthathiar sections are enthused by the victory and have thanked the CPI(M), TNEUF and other mass organisations.  In the recent Lok Sabha election, considerable section of Arunthathiars voted for our Coimbatore CPI(M) candidate, P R Natarajan, which helped us to win the seat. In the recent by-election to Thondamuthur assembly, thousands of Arunthathiars voted for our candidate, Perumal


OTHER STRUGGLES

 

Some more victories achieved during this period are worth mentioning.  In Vaattakudi, a village in Nagappattinam district, dalits fought under our leadership for a burial ground for them.  Though government has sanctioned and allotted funds for a burial ground to dalits, caste Hindus objected while the construction work had begun.  They have even damaged the constructed portion and the construction material was stolen.  After a massive dharna by CPI(M) and the issue was raised in the Tamilnadu assembly by our MLAs, the government intervened and settled the issue.  Now there is a common (samathuva) burial ground in Vaattakudi village.

 

The temple entry by dalits at Erode district, initiated by TNUEF resulted in success.  In Thanjavur district, a massive demonstration against abuse and slanderous campaign against dalits by caste Hindus was conducted.

 

The state level organising committee of Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front is scheduled to meet on November 6, at Virudhunagar to chalk out future course of action on dalit issues.