I came back to Madurai after wandering in and around Paramakudi for the past two days. I have never really experienced such a disappointment and helplessness in my life. The entire trip was disgusting.
The way we construct our own history through oral and written sources as a political move saying that we were the ancient inhabitants and rulers of this land becomes meaningless to me after seeing the people in despair. I had seen posters on the walls in Paramakudi inviting Devendrar brothers to a 'Mallar Country/Devendrar land'. However they lost their meaning in front of the brutality of the police force on Sept. 11th.
In Paramakudi dry, hot air blows in fearful silence. The only source of income for the people living in the nearby villages is 'karimoottam' (preparing charcoal by burning the wood of karuvel trees). We could see lot of such 'karimmoottam'. It signifies the failure of the regular agricultural practices.
The people whom we visited during the two days narrated their nightmares about the State police force.
The entire area is under the control of the police force which unfurled the violence upon the people who gathered there to pay homage to Immanuel Sekaran.
We could not find any men in the villages. It is told that they are all hiding in the barren paddy fields and amidst the thorn bushes of village ponds. The police force continuously search for the Devendrar men to book them in the cases of burning state govt vehicles. When they couldn't find any men in the villages their anger expressed in the form of obscene words towards the Devendrar women.
We could read the face of the people who felt themselves abandoned. The people in the villages we visited are in deep despair as they don't know how to get compensation, and to proceed with legal action, they look eagerly at whoever passes by that village.
There is no experienced leader who can handle this situation or anyone who can console them, which is what they terribly need right now. They don't know whether to accept the state govt's compensation or not. They are in confusion whether the widow of the victim is eligible for both widow fund and a govt job or not.
The only hot news circulated widely among the Devendrars of Paramakudi is the existence of a video coverage of the entire episode that happened on Sept. 11th. There are persons who secretly admitted that they had seen selected clippings from that recording. It is believed that the video CD is going to be a strong evidence against the police force.
The memorial place of the leader Immanuel Sekaran presents a disgusting scene. We are told that for the past five years lakhs and lakhs of people have come here to pay their respect to him on a particular day. However, that place is not even suitable for conducting a local body meeting. Actually it is a common christian burial ground where we can find an array of burial stones.
Police in Paralai
We started our journey to Paramakudi from Madurai around 10.00 am on 19th Sept., 2011. We were told that yesterday (18-09-2011) there was a stone pelting incident by the police force in a village called Paralai, which is situated on the highway. Therefore we decided to visit that village.
Paralai is a small dalit hamlet, also known as H. Paralai i.e., Harijan Paralai. Nearby there is one more Paralai called M. Paralai, i.e., Muslim Paralai. Devendra Kula Velalar is the only caste community living in that village. When we reached the hamlet, the entire street was covered with stones (pieces of bricks). After seeing us entering into the village as a group, people (mostly women) slowly came out of their houses, and within few minutes we were surrounded by more than fifty of them.
We explained to them the purpose of our visit (to study the situation in Paramakudi), they recounted the incident that happened in their village on 18th Sep., 2011 at 3.00 pm. For the past ten days, like in any other Devendra kula velalar village, the male members of that village were hiding in the paddy fields, fearing the police forces. Police personnel often come to the village enquiring about the men to arrest them in cases such as damaging Govt., properties. Since Sept. 11th, this is a regular practice.
However, on that particular evening, it was not one or two but 200 policemen entered the village. They came in four police vans. The Devendrar women were watching them in fear. Among the 200 policemen, 100 were in uniform while the rest were in casual dress, in T-shirts and lungis. The uniformed policemen were ordered to take positions along the highway facing the village. They were fully guarded with helmet and hand barricades. Meanwhile the policemen in casual dress entered into the village. They tied green and red colour ribbons around their head and the same colour flags around their waist. Now, the differently costumed policemen began to camouflage themselves as a gang.
What happened next was shocking to the women standing in front of their houses. The costumed police gang suddenly got furious and started to throw stones towards the uniformed policemen, simultaneously shouting slogans against the police atrocity (Down, Down Police force Down, Down) and for the Devendrar community (Long live Immanuel Sekaran). The armed police guarded themselves with the hand barricade from the stone pelting. Then, the official who was directing the entire drama with a crew of two video-graphers, asked the uniformed policemen to move forward. The police force acted as if pushing a violent mob through the village streets. The entire episode was video-graphed meticulously. This exercise was continued for more than half an hour.
The women who witnessed this incident came out of their houses and started yelling against the policemen. They were threatened by the same policemen asking them to go inside the houses.
When the people narrated this incident to us we could feel their agony. They couldn't decipher what would be the signification of that incident. For them, it immediately brought the memories of the police brutality that happened in Kodiankulam, another Devendrar village near Tirunelveli. They were in a panic.
This is not an odd incident. Since Sept. 11th, this is the reality in Paramakudi. When we met the Ramanathapuram collector on the next day, we asked him about this particular incident. Surprisingly he was not aware of such happenings.
People of Paralai and other villages in Paramakudi raised alarms regarding such police activities. As the entire exercise was video-graphed, this can be shown as an evidence of Devendrar men attacking the police force to the commission appointed by the state Govt. Otherwise, with this evidence the police force can arrange an assault upon the village.
Anything can be done with such strong manufactured evidences.
The treachery and villainy of TN Govt's police force is well known. It was unfolded in Paramakudi on Sept. 11th. Now, the police department is in a fix and is cooking up the evidences to justify their cruelty. After my visit to Paramakudi, I am convinced that police can do anything, if it is against dalits they will perform it in style and arrogance.
Thamburaj Dharmaraj was part of a committee that went to gather information about the Paramkudi killings of 6 dalits by Tamilnadu police force on Sept/11/11; the above article is a part of his notes during this visit.
Photographs by Karthik Navayan.