Caste violence in Tiruvannamalai District, akin to Dharmapuri 2012!

 

Geeta Charusivam

Puliyarampakkam Village in Cheyyar Taluk of Tiruvannamalai district is a village with a population of around 2500 persons. It is primarily a Dalit village, with majority of the population (about 2000) belonging to a scheduled caste called Paraiyars. The caste hindus are just a quarter in number as compared to the Dalits. As per the rigid norms of our caste dominated society, the village is divided into the Cheri / Colony (where the scheduled castes live) and the Oor (where caste hindus live). The village has not witnessed any intra-village caste conflict between the Dalits and caste hindus so far.

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Yesterday, viz., 23.07.2017, around mid-morning, some dalit boys were playing cricket along the local lakeside. Some boys from the dominant Vanniyar caste belonging to Chellaperumpulimedu village which is about 12 kms away came there and quarrelled with the dalit boys. Two boys Tamilarasan and Manikandan were specifically targeted and beaten up by them. The motive for this attack seems to be the fact that Tamilarasan and a Vanniyar boy, both love a Vanniyar girl from Chellaperumpulimedu village. However, the girl does not seem to have reciprocated the feelings of either boy. But the attack on the Dalits boys was led by that Vanniyar lover-boy who demanded, "How dare you love our girls, you dogs? We'll kill you for this audacity!" But the quarrel ended and the dalit boys returned home.

At around 5 pm, Rajesh and Saravanan, two Vanniyar boys, entered Puliyarampakkam village rashly riding a bike. They had been part of the morning gang that attacked Tamilarasan. They abused and made dire threats in public. The villagers caught hold of the two and decided to take them to Cheyyar police station. Sensing trouble, Saravanan escaped from the spot. The villagers took Rajesh to the Police Station and reported the matter to SSI Jyoti and SI Ravi, who were the only policemen present then. Rajesh repeated his threat of dire consequences to the villagers in front of the policemen too. But the two policemen did not take the matter seriously. They made some cursory enquiries and let him off immediately without filing any FIR.

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At 7.30 pm Rajesh returned to Puliyarampakkam Village with a huge gang of 60 Vanniyar youths. They came in 30 bikes and were heavily armed with long knives, iron rods, sticks. This gang was led by a few known history-sheeters who are accused of murder and are out on bail. They are professional killers and came with their weapons.

Puliyarampakkam Dalit village is made up of five streets. Tamilarasan's house is towards the inner end of street two. The gang entered and targeted this street from the main road (state highway from Maangal Koot Road to Cheyyar). They destroyed and defaced a billboard located on the main road at the entrance of the street as it had a picture of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on it. They indiscriminately entered into houses and ransacked them. They also attacked all the dalit youths they could find there.

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The first house on the street had a shop front. This was damaged and groceries strewn on the floor. The roofing sheet was pulled down. The second house belonged to Ganapathy who was brutally attacked on the head. A mini truck (Tata ace) belonging to the family was completely smashed.

Then the gang found Venkatesan, who was just entering his house, which was the third in line. He was viciously attacked with knives and rods. His younger brother Adikesavan tried to intervene and was also attacked.

That killer gang devastated another eight houses in a similar manner, breaking doors, furniture, household possessions. Several others were also savagely beaten up, slashed or stabbed.

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In Yuvaraj's house, a knife was held to an infant's throat to threaten his family members. Bricks from a demolished house site were thrown at people in neighbouring houses. Yuvaraj resisted the attack by blocking with his right hand. He has sustained grievous injury to his right arm which is swollen and painful.

The wooden door of Thirumal Marugan, who happens to be VAO of another village and had just returned home, was prised open with knives and broken down by the ferocious gang. He says that he sent away the womenfolk and children inside the house. He stood in the broken doorway with folded hands and pleaded with the attackers to spare his life.

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 Not stopping with this savagery, the gang dragged a seriously injured Venkatesan on their bike, and abducted him, with his head dangling and hitting the road. His face was smashed. He was continuously hit with iron rods and stabbed with knives. His younger brother Adikesavan was also abducted on another bike.

The villagers immediately rushed to the police station and gave a complaint. Some villagers say the police again did not respond. Others say they called up the attackers and asked them to release the two abducted brothers. Both Venkatesan and Adikesavan were continuously attacked and thrown off the bikes near Mangal Koot road. Venkatesan succumbed to his injuries within a short time.

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The villagers unanimously appreciate Venkatesan and say he was a hard- working and reserved person. In fact, he minded his own business and never got into any trouble. He was 33 years old, had just built their house and was about to be married soon. He worked in Panimalar Engineering College as an electrician and had come home for the weekend. His brother Adikesavan has injuries in his stomach, waist, back and hands and is admitted to Chengalpet hospital.

List of dead persons

1 Venkatesan 33 Stabbed, beaten and smashed to

death

List of injured persons

Name Age Hospital Injury

 1 Adikesavan 28 Chengalpet GH stomach, waist,
back and hands
2 Viji 27 Chengalpet GH Head injury
3 Dayalan 50 Cheyyar GH Head injury
4 Ganapathy 36 Chennai GH Head injury

List of properties damaged / destroyed

Type of property Numbers

 1 Houses ransacked 10
2 Mini Trucks (Tata Ace) 2
3 Motor Bikes 10
4 Bicycles Atleast 1

Similarly, all the persons who were injured or had their houses vandalised also were totally innocent. They were attacked solely because they were Dalits. The Vanniyars had promised that they would teach a cruel lesson to the Dalits and did so with ease, safe in the knowledge that they had adequate impunity to get away with it.

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Since early morning today, Makkal Mandram was in the village alongwith local Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) unit led by its Mandal Secretary, Mathiazhagan. The villagers staged a roadblock and demanded immediate action by the police.

The police led by Tmt. Ponni, Superintendent of Police Tiruvannamalai alongwith four DSPs, several inspectors and sub-inspectors reached the spot. They informed the villagers that FIR (No. 583/2017 dt, 24.07.2017) has been filed and 9 attackers remanded. We were given a copy of the FIR after we made repeated demands for it. The FIR has named 32 persons. The sections under which the attackers were charged are: Section 294(b), 147, 148, 323, 324, 363, 307, 302, 506(ii) of IPC, Section 3(1) of TN Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act 1992, Section 3(1) (c), 3(1)(r), 3(1)(t) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 2015. While the police, especially the top level officers showed a marked efficiency in booking the case, remanding atleast some of the accused and invoking relevant sections, one has to reiterate that the entire incident could have been avoided if the SSI and SI at the station had not openly displayed their caste prejudice and allowed Rajesh to go scot-free.

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The loss of life is irreparable, the damage to property is enormous, and the fear of the villagers is palpable. The attack was reminiscent of Dharmapuri caste violence of 2012, albeit a smaller version.

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There are still some very important demands left for the state government to fulfil at once:

 1. Ensure complete protection for the Dalit village by posting adequate security there.
2. Arrest the remaining attackers immediately.
3. Suspend SSI Jyoti and SI Ravi immediately for gross negligence in performance of their duty and conduct enquiry against them.
4. Ensure that compensation is paid to affected families immediately so that they can rebuilt their lives.
5. Ensure that the police do not give in to pressure from dominant caste groups and file counter-cases on the victims of caste violence. (We have learnt from earlier experience that this is the standard practice followed by the police in the name of equal treatment.)

 We appeal to all of you to raise your voice against such caste atrocity by sharing it with your friends and supporters; by approaching the authorities concerned viz., District Collector, RDO, SP, and other concerned officials.

 ~ Geeta Charusivam, Makkal Mandram

~~~

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