Dalit woman leader not allowed to lead

Translation by Lavanya Raj Bharathi 

An atrocity such as this continues unstopped, only in Tamilnadu. This atrocity is yet another example for how caste inequalities run strong and deep in the state's soil, like the roots of the Banyan.

On Wednesday, the Kayaththar panchayat (near Kovilpatti) committee meeting took place in the panchayat committee office. The announcements for the meeting were carried out according to the rules and regulations of the local administration. Based on these rules, the Collector, the Planning Officer, the MP, MLA, District Panchayat President, Assistant Director of Rural development, Panchayat Officer, District Development Officer, members of the committee, Press and Television media personnel, were all informed of the meeting.

Just when the meeting was about to begin as announced, the Panchayat Vice President, Manickaraasa halted the press personnel and camera men right within the office premises and prevented them from carrying out their job.

The vice president then apparently questioned them with a level of arrogance, asking, "Who invited you? Why have you come here? Come for the next meeting for which you will all be called. Only if you all leave, will the meeting commence today" and ordered them to leave the premises.

Immediately thereafter, camera men and press personnel who were standing in the office premises were removed by the vice president's supporters. An investigation as to why such an event took place has revealed the caste depravity that is so very rampant and thriving. The Panchayat President Perumal (45 years) is a woman and dalit. The Vice President Manickaraasa is also the Ward Secretary of Kovilpatti constituency which belongs to the current ruling party, AIADMK. He has used her caste to indulge in dominance by threatening suppressing and halting her from functioning as the Panchayat President.

It has also come to light that it is his practice to sit in Perumal's (President) chair even in the presence of government authorities, and conduct the council meeting under his influence.

It is important to note here that during the preceding period of administrative rule, Manickaraasa had restricted the same dalit woman, Perumal from carrying out her official duties. In a habitual and devious manner of restricting her from doing her duties from a leader's position, Manickaraasa made sure that she was stopped from attending the Panchayat council meetings and later using this as a reason and cleverly created opportunities for himself to elevate his powers as the Vice president.

Literally and symbolically sitting in her chair, he saw to that the council meetings took place under his authority. In spite of the fact that such caste atrocities and breach of official rights continued to take place from the preceding period of administrative rule to the present, governmental and investigative authorities have not intervened, although they are completely aware of such an unfortunate and illegal working atmosphere. It has been a classic case of "see but do not care".

In a recent meeting, two days ago, that was attended by Collectors and Police officials; our Chief Minister proclaimed that there should be no acceptance of bribe, corruption or perversity in serving the people. But, sadly and contradictorily, in Kayaththar Panchayat council, the situation is that, a representative of the people is ripped off her legitimate functioning capacity, thus unable to sit in her chair of office and carry out official meetings, by the actions of her very own party members and subordinates.

From the Collector's office to the local police station, all have turned a blind eye to this breach and crime. If one realises that it is almost impossible for the press to obtain news in a democracy and in a meeting of the Panchayat, which is a representative body of Indians, one is slapped right on the face by the severity of it.

Read the original Tamil article here

Lavanya Raj Bharathi is a psychologist, educator and writer.

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