People's Democracy

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


No. 46

November 18, 2012





Dharmapuri Witnesses Fire and Fury of Casteism


S P Rajendran


IT was a furious day for them.


Three colonies of dalit masses near Naikkankottai village in Dharmapuri district of western Tamilnadu experienced horror unleashed against on them by caste Hindus on November 7.


The mob consisting more than 2000 caste Hindus torched and destroyed as many as 268 dwellings – huts, tiled-roof and one or two-room concrete houses. They were enraged by a dalit boy from one of the colonies marrying a caste Hindu girl.


The prime target of the attack was the Natham Colony whose resident, Ilavarasan (23) had married N Divya (20), a caste Hindu girl. The mob’s fury was also directed at the adjoining Anna Nagar Colony and Kondampatti Old and New Colonies.


It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached Sanjay Kumar, the deputy inspector general of police (Salem Range) a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court (khap type panchayat) directed Ilavarasan’s family to hand over the girl on November 7. But the girl refused to go to her father. Meanwhile the kangaroo court also intimidated the girl’s family that they would be ostracised if they failed to produce the girl and the boy. Under this pressure, the girl’s father, Nagarajan, hanged himself in his house in Sellankottai, half a km from the dalit colonies. On the pretext of his suicide, the mobs went on rampage.


One group of incensed members of his community protested on the Dharmapuri-Tiruppattur Road, blocking traffic with the trees they felled as well as with boulders and signboards. At the same time, another group entered the dalit colonies and set the dwellings ablaze after having looted all the houses and taken the valuables away. The books and notebooks of dalit children, ration cards, land documents as well as other documents of dalit families were all torched down. The attack started around 4.30 p m and went on till 9 p m. Police reinforcements and fire tenders could not reach the spot in time. They cited as the reason the hurdles placed on the road leading to the colonies. Many dalits’ vehicles too were torched. The mob fled when the police reinforcements arrived.


As their houses were consumed by the fury of untouchability, nearly 1,500 dalits including women and children had to spend the night in shock, fear and without shelter. As most of the men are away in Bangalore, Tiruppur and other places for employment, the aged, women and children had to face the brunt of the attack. When the mob started looting the houses before setting them alight, many women fled with their children to nearby fields or to their relatives living farther away.


Next day the authorities accommodated them in government schools.


District collector R Lilly visited the affected persons and ordered relief for them. He said Ilavarasan and Divya were safe and in police protection.


P Dilli Babu, CPI(M) MLA from Harur and a state committee member, and other party leaders immediately rushed to the spot and met the affected dalit people.




The Tamilnadu state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which met at Tiruchi on November 9, vehemently condemned the violence unleashed on dalit people. It sent a team to the spot next day.


Headed by Central Committee members K Balakrishnan (MLA) and P Sampath, the team included Coimbatore MP P R Natarajan, MLAs P Dilli Babu (Harur) and K Beemrao (Maduravoyal) and TNUEF general secretary K Samuel Raj. It visited the colonies and consoled the affected people on November 10. It distributed mats, rice and other materials worth Rs 2.5 lakh to the affected families.


This team also blamed the intelligence failure and the authorities’ failure to crack down upon kangaroo courts for the attack.


The team told reporters that the attack could not be prevented because of total intelligence failure. It alleged that an inflammatory speech by PMK leader J Guru a month ago at a public meeting in Naikkankottai encouraged caste Hindus to indulge in violence against dalits. The team referred to the allegation that a kangaroo court had ordered that the dalit youth’s marriage with the caste Hindu girl must be called off.


The team opined that the attack was well-organised and asked the police to take action against those responsible under the SC/ST (Prevention of Crime) Act. The government should build new houses for the affected families. The loss they suffered should be calculated and appropriate compensation given. Adequate police protection should be provided. The children should be provided books, uniforms and the certificates they have lost in the fire. Families should be issued fresh ration cards.


Pointing out that the November 7 incident in Dharmapuri district was serious in nature, the Madras High Court directed the authorities to make proper arrangements for the displaced families’ stay and provide them security.


Stating that it would be fit and proper if the investigation is done by an officer in the rank of deputy inspector general, the court directed the special government pleader to file a counter affidavit giving details of the incident, action taken by the administration and the result of the investigation.


The first bench of Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam passed the order on a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the authorities for providing relief under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Natham, Annanagar and Kondampatti Old and New colonies. It posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks. The authorities should submit a status report and the counter affidavit on that date.




Extensive damage was caused to the dalits’ property by caste Hindus, according to D Venkatesan, director, National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).


On November 10, after inspecting the houses torched in Natham Colony, Anna Nagar and Kondampatti New and Old colonies in Naikkankottai village, he told that women, especially the elderly, broke down on seeing the official and narrated their harrowing experiences. At Natham Colony, he spoke to T Palaniammal, 80-year-old grandmother of E Ilavarasan who married N Divya.


NCSC chairman P L Punia condemned the attack as a well-organised crime. It was not anguish over a single incident, viz the suicide, but a well-organised and planned attack, he told reporters after inspecting the houses that were targeted and interacting with the people and officials. He said the mob used petrol bombs and torched the houses after taking away valuables. Rs 6.95-crore was a rough estimate of the loss.


On rehabilitation, Punia referred to the district administration’s plan to reconstruct the 40 fully damaged houses, at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh each, and to undertake repair of the partially damaged ones at a total cost of Rs 40.90 lakh. The estimates had been sent to the government for approval. Till these works were over, the affected people would be accommodated in temporary sheds which the administration was putting up at Rs 12 lakh.


Punia said the district administration had been directed to provide transport facility to dalit colonies, as some of the girls pursuing Plus Two classes expressed fear that they could be targeted when they walk a long distance to school, through fields.