DP

Melavalavu massacre, on June 30, 1997, is a landmark case that haunts Tamilnadu polity for over two decades, and hence merits a relook. Panchayat president Murugesan, vice president Mookan, along with five others (Murugesan’s younger brother K Rasa, Chelladurai, Sevugamoorthi, M Boopathi and Sountharapandi) were hacked and killed by the dominating communities (Thevars etc), for defying their warnings and winning elections in  a place  reserved for SCs.

This is the bitter reality that cannot be covered up by statues and rituals:    

DMK govt led by Stalin announced in the Assembly, on April 13, 2022, to celebrate every year Ambedkar’s birthday as ‘Equality Day.’ His full-size statue will be erected in Manimandapam, Chennai.

Of the 4,000 Dalit panchayat presidents elected in Tamilnadu state so far, 1,000 to 1,200 have struggled with caste-based discrimination, says Rangaswamy Elango, Dalit-born former panchayat President of Kuthambakkam, very near to Chennai city. (thefederal.com, Report by N Vinoth Kumar, 19 November, 2019).

There can not be a greater irony, in this Amritotsav (75th) Year of Indian independence,  than the fact of caste-based oppression and discrimination faced by elected Presidents in the land ruled by Periyarist parties.

It may be recalled the same govt, in 2021September, had likewise decided to celebrate Periyar’s birthday as ‘Social Justice Day.’

Melavalavu massacre took place under DMK’s fourth Govt formed in 1996 May. 44 assailants were charge-sheeted and 17 were given life sentences. The state govt did not contest the acquittal of 23 persons. Instead, the DMK released three convicts in 2008, and ADMK released 13 convicts  in 2019, about which the High Court expressed its displeasure and anxiety about the safety of SCs, and restrained them from entering the village at least for some months. (We shall review this case towards the end of this article.)

Killing Pallars (SC) To Propitiate Thevars, was how renowned  activist Profesor Anand Teltumbde described the Tamilnadu situation (30 October, 2011, Countercurrents.org), in a different but similar case of  atrocities. DMK and ADMK always vied with each other to woo the Thevars and Vanniars at the expense of dalits.

The glaring contrast between rituals and reality is best seen in Tamilnadu  where, we had pointed out…

“300 SC/ST persons were murdered between 2016 and 2020 in Tamil Nadu, with only 13 convictions, as per a report,compiled by adding up RTI data from 35 of the 38 districts in the state. Perhaps that is the highest for a single Indian state in such a short period…” 

“ There are 87 forms of untouchability and 28 forms of atrocities existing in Tamil Nadu”, says a survey.

This is part-3  of an article, and part of a larger series on Tamilnadu. While earlier parts dealt with brazen discrimination in social matters, this one discusses the official attitude and in political matters.

See part-1 : Tamilnadu’s Caste mafia has deep roots and thrives by patronage  of ruling parties (March 26,2022).   

https://countercurrents.org/2022/03/tamilnadus-caste-mafia-has-deep-roots-and-thrives-by-patronage-of-ruling-parties/

Part-2 : Tamilnadu’s Political Casteism and DSP Vishnupriya’s Suicide (9/04/2022)

https://countercurrents.org/2022/04/tamilnadus-political-casteism-and-dsp-vishnupriyas-suicide/

The  above statement about caste-based discrimination of panchayat presidents was made by R. Elango, a B.Tech graduate, and a former CSIR scientist, who had resigned and grew into a renowned social worker. After his experience of two terms (1996-2006) as a panchayat president, he declined to continue in the same route,  founded a Panchayat Academy, and trained more than 700 panchayat presidents on local governance. The above statement is from a report two years-old.

“I was a panchayat president for 10 years. My panchayat is dominated by Dalits (half the village population). So I did not face any major problems the other Dalit panchayat presidents face. However, on the official level, I have observed that Dalit presidents are often treated with disdain by their subordinates,” said Elango, who is a scientist-activist, and so commands social respect.

I am not 100 percent Gandhian, but follow his principles in village development, as different from technology-driven rural development, he had said in an interview. ( the week.in Dec 15,2013). His advice, not acceptable to many, was this:

“In order to end the discrimination, Dalit presidents need to follow a few tactics. They should first try to bring a consensus among the dominant caste of that particular panchayat on their taking up the official position. They should avoid countering the dominant caste. If they are asked to sit on the floor, Dalit presidents must shed their ego and act accordingly. If the dominant caste does not allow them to enter the panchayat office, they should work from home. Within a limited period of time, say six months, the dominant caste will throw in their towel and accept the Dalit’s leadership. It has happened with some of the panchayat presidents we trained… Such caste-based discrimination can be handled if Dalit presidents play along with the upper caste, to earn their trust and consensus.”

***                 ***

 A century of  Periyarist politics and self-respect movement

Mark, that is what is said by the reformist scholar-activist of Tamilnadu, known for its self-respect movement, after almost a century of  Periyarist politics at the helm.

Indeed, Periyarist politics have been dominating the Tamilnadu polity for a century now. Non-Brahmin leaders of Justice Party led the then Madras province as Chief Ministers for 13 out of 17 years between 1920-37. Periyar, who was a leader of Vaikkom satyagraha along with Gandhiji, said he had quit the ‘Brahmin-dominated Congress’ in 1925, and joined Justice Party (which he led as President during 1938-44), that later was converted into Dravida Kazagam (DK) to lead a ‘self-respect movement.’ DMK led by Anna Durai was its offshoot founded in 1949.

Post-1947 Madras (Tamilnadu), after some years of Brahmin Rajaji’s leadership, saw non-Brahmin Kamaraj, who also headed AICC, as the Chief Minister for a decade from 1954 to 1963, followed by another non-Brahmin CM Bhaktavatsalam. From 1967 till date, it was Periyarist parties (DMK, AIADMK) who headed the state without interruption (except brief stints of President’S Rule.

Elango’s social reformist views are not accepted by many. For instance, K Samuel Raj, general secretary, of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, who relies more on the Constitution, says:

 

“The Constitution has provided reservations to Dalits, particularly to enable them to meld with the mainstream and take leadership in politics.  But if a Dalit panchayat president, pays obeisance to the upper caste and adjusts with the discrimination meted out to him, it will have a negative impact on the minds of others in the community. If he obliges to such demands, it is best for him to resign from his post,” he says.

Raj says instead of bowing down to the upper caste, a Dalit panchayat president must fight to retain his position with the support of all democratic institutions.

“Even if an upper caste person is elected as president and he chooses to work honestly, he will face opposition from the people. So, a Dalit panchayat president should find better ways to get his work done instead of paying obeisance to the upper caste,” he adds. (same source.)

(https://thefederal.com/states/south/tamil-nadu/tns-dalit-panchayat-heads-empowered-by-law-but-crushed-by-caste/)

While some harped on social reform, others like Raj banked on political reforms. Constitution and law are mostly shown to be the ultimate saviors of dalits and oppressed communities, forgetting the deep roots of caste discrimination and oppression in India’s semi-feudalism.

How are the reforms working in Tamilnadu with its legacy of social and political reforms?

“The SC/ST vigilance and monitoring committee meeting is to be held every six months. In Tamil Nadu, it has met only thrice in the 23 years between 1995 and 2018.” 

Both DMK and ADMK have been one in this.

***           ***

Dalit panchayat presidents refused basic rights 

“They face 13 types of discrimination:”  Prof G Palanithurai

Dalit panchayat presidents, despite being elected people’s representatives and protected by a host of laws for the SC/ST community, face at least 13 types of discrimination, says G Palanithurai, a former professor of Gandhigram University.

The same thefederal.com report gives details:

Palanithurai, during his research on local governance over the past many years, found that a Dalit panchayat president is:

Barred from hoisting the national flag in the panchayat office.

  1. Denied the right to sit on a chair in the panchayat office.
  2. Subjected to physical attacks.
  3. Not entrusted with official records.
  4. Subjugated by caste Hindu vice-presidents who often control documents.
  5. Denied reports of panchayat expenditures by vice-presidents and clerks.
  6. Addressed by caste name.
  7. Denied the right to take decisions and to give opinions.
  8. Denied the right to run the office independently.
  9. Denied revenue records by village administrative officers.
  10. Denied to talk about social justice and take up related work.
  11. Pressured to work in the interest of political parties who fielded him/her.
  12. Neglected by all government offices.

With Caste Hindu vice-presidents mostly entrusted with vital documents of the panchayat office, Dalit panchayat presidents are denied the rights to host the national flag on office premises and are subjected to insubordinate behaviour by deputies and clerks who refuse to hand over panchayat expenditures to them, Palanithurai study mentions.

“These discriminations are only limited to the working environment and not found at the community level…

It is a shame to say that we are living in the land of Periyar,” Prof Palanithurai says.

Periyar was also a champion of women’s self respect. But despite a woman CM Jayalalitha, Sujatha, a former president of Puthur panchayat, Thiruvallur district, says that the discrimination faced by women panchayat presidents from the Dalit community is more based on gender than caste.

In fact it is double discrimination, by caste and gender.

“When I was the president, upper caste men used to send many petitions, mostly information under RTI, just to annoy me…because I am a woman and a widow.”  She is the wife of a former panchayat president, and was elected unopposed.

In order to empower Dalit panchayat presidents, Palanithurai had formed a Dalit Panchayat Presidents’ Federation and held training programmes for them during his term in the university but the sad part of the story is..

“But after I handed over the federation’s management to the hands of the presidents themselves, it started to lose steam because of various reasons including interference of political parties,” he lamented. Which parties?

But then it was always Periyarist parties that helmed Tamilnadu for over 50 years without interruption.

***                           ***

A few examples of discrimination because of caste and gender

Statues and rituals connected with Ambedkar and Periyar fail to cover up the brazen casteist politics and discrimination in Tamilnadu.

Here are a few cases, all connected with the Govt agencies, that fail to uphold the Constitution and rule of law, with respect to caste discrimination..  

Prabhakar Tamilarasu reported for federal.com, from Coimbatore,  24 August, 2020. Caste, class, political rivalry between DMK and ADMK, police biases etc complicate the issues involved. Constitution and law have no place:

A week after a Dalit Panchayat president in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district was stopped from hoisting the national flag on Independence day, another Dalit woman, V Saridha, president of J Krishnapuram Panchayat, in Coimbatore has alleged that she faces caste-based discrimination in the village.

Saridha said that she has been tolerating the casteist abuses to maintain harmony in the village. “But recently, he (Balasubramaniam, OBC)  came to the Panchayat office and threatened me and the office sweeper that I shouldn’t sit in the chair whenever he visits the office,” she said. Moreover, she alleged that none of her colleagues in the village stood by her.

Based on her complaint, Coimbatore police have formally registered a case against the accused..but the Superintendent of Police Ara Arularasu said that the panchayat leader’s complaint might be politically motivated since Balasubramaniam has no role in the panchayat office. However, sources in the Panchayat office told The Federal that Balasubramaniam had been constantly abusing her and that police might be taking a lenient view since he was an AIADMK man.

“Earlier, Balasubramaniam was with the DMK. The AIADMK started backing him after a Dalit woman was made the panchayat president against the wishes of a few DMK locals. Since he’s also from a dominant caste in the western region to which most of the senior ministers belong to, the police may not take further action against him,” said a panchayat worker.

https://thefederal.com/states/south/tamil-nadu/dalit-panchayat-chief-in-tn-says-she-faces-casteist-slurs/

This is not the sole incident where Dalit and tribal panchayat leaders were denied their rights.

V Amrutham (60), a Dalit panchayat president of the Athupakam village in Tiruvallur district, was not allowed to hoist the national flag on Independence day.

“Not being allowed to hoist the national flag was just the recent incident. Earlier, I was not even allowed to enter the panchayat office and I did not even have the office keys. I was repeatedly threatened and abused,” Amrutham said. “I vowed to serve the people in my village, but I could not do it only because I was a Dalit.”

Though she had not filed a formal complaint, the State Human Rights Commission had sought a reply from the District Collector. On August 20, Amrutham hoisted the national flag at the panchayat office in front of District collector Mageshwari Ravikumar, said SP P Arvindhan.

***                      ***

Villagers keep off anganwadi that has two SC employees

How deep and extensive are caste fissures in Tamilnadu can be seen in this vivid report, Caught in Tamil Nadu’s caste cauldron, by timesofindia :

anganvadi

 “Should our children eat the food cooked by a dalit,” parents shouted when  a dalit ( Arunthathiyar ) woman, named Pappal, who is in her 40s, was appointed as a cook in an Anganawadi of Kongunadu region of Tamilnadu. Her dream of  a govt job was shattered.

It is no big news in India, but notable when it is in Tamilnadu.

A century of social reform in Tamilnadu has not changed the social  attitudes and and political divisive games. The administration, itself a seat of the inseparable politics and casteism, fails to implement the Constitution and law.

“ She thought getting a government job would be the end of her misery. For P Pappal, an Arunthathiyar woman and school dropout who comes from a family that had been doing menial jobs for ages, a government job had been a distant dream. But only after she got one — as a noon meal cook in a government school — did she realise that the tougher task was to get children and their parents to accept the food cooked by a dalit, especially an Arunthathiyar.

Arunthathiyars, the lowest in the social hierarchy, are often discriminated against even by dalit communities higher in the ladder.

Since 2006, when she got the appointment order, Pappal has been shunted to five schools — three of them in less than a week. She was forced out of the schools by non-dalits, primarily Gounders, the politically and numerically powerful community, who constitute a majority in the Kongu belt.

She was posted and rejected by people in her native Thirumalai gounden palayam,  Kandhaiapalayam, Vaiyapurib gounden puthur, Cheyur panchayat,  and Ochampalayam, 16km away, a dalit majority village a dalit majority village, where she could serve peacefully for 12 years.

Then she got deputed to Thirumalai gounden palayam on June 30. “I thought life would be much better as the school was near my house and I could save Rs. 1,000 spent on bus fare to Ochampalayam,” said Pappal. She was not prepared for what was in store. The very next day, parents of non-dalit children staged a protest, her deputation to the school was cancelled and the issue was taken up by dalit outfits. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes intervened and she was reposted.

But what followed was worse : She was accused of negligence of duty, harming health of children, after a lizard was allegedly found in the food she cooked on August 7! (It is a common trick played.)

But dalits in the village say such a rift between the communities is new for Thirumalaigoundenpalayam, an agrarian village, roughly 15km from Avinashi, the nearest town in Tirupur district, falls in Avinashi assembly constituency, a SC reserved segment, now represented by assembly speaker P Dhanapal.

DMK ADMK rivalry complicates the situation.

There had been no communal tiff, but there were clear social demarcations — dalits and non-dalits have separate temples and burial grounds.

Non-dalits say Pappal and her husband were rude and had always been problematic…But non-dalits are not prepared for a truce. Pappal is not ready to give up. “How long will I keep running. I chose to work elsewhere for 12 years. But now I won’t,’’ says a determined Pappal.

Timesofindia, June 21, 201, reported another case from Madurai Dt:

Two women, M Annalakshmi and M Jyothilakshmi from the Pallar and Arunthathiyar (SC) communities, who were appointed at the anganwadi centre,  in  S Valayapatti village in Madurai district, as helper and organizer respectively, were allegedly transferred following a protest by the Mutharaiyars that they wouldn’t eat the food prepared by the SC community.

Following criticism, the district administration clarified that it wasn’t a transfer but an additional charge that they were given and that they had been relieved of it.

But, according to activists, ever since the two were reinstated, the parents from the Mutharaiyar caste have been refusing to send their children there.

Annalakshmi told TOI that on Thursday, only a total of six children – all from the SC community – turned up at the anganwadi. “Our staff had gone to the houses of the children who were absent and urged the parents to send them to the centre, but they refused,” she said adding that usually around 15 children turned up at the centre.

The above are but two examples, but not exceptional.

***                  ***

Denied houses on rent, Dalit sanitary workers build temporary shelters

Coimbatore is one of the oldest and advanced industrial centre, but has been a centre where caste and communal politics are nurtured by ruling class parties. Now BJP out of four seats it won last year, one is from here, thanks to its alliance with AIADMK.

Swatch Bharat is Modiji’s flagship program, but the Sabka sath does not work here, when it comes to sanitary workers who hail from ‘lowly’ SC communities.

It was decided that the original 30-year-old houses in CMC Colony of the city would be demolished by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board, and new quarters built, which would take at least 18 months.

Only about 100 of the 422 families managed to find a house for rent either by hiding their (caste) identity or by accepting the landlords’ conditions, eg. not to enter the house in the khaki uniform they wear while cleaning the drainages.

“I have rented a house for about Rs 9,000 in the city. But even to go to my own house after work, I go to a public toilet, take a bath and change my clothes. I have to cover my identity in the place where I live,” says P Ganesan, a worker.

As many as 200 families decided to build temporary shelters until the corporation built a new one at CMC Colony, not being given alternate accommodation in Coimbatore.  (thefederal.com/, 12 January, 2020).

temp

The temporary houses are 16×11 sqft large, with a kitchen and a washroom. Earlier ones were 250-sqft housing units; these metal-roofed shelters offered little respite from rain and heat.

Residents also revealed that they were building these shelters on loans as much as Rs 50,000 taken from usurers at 7%–10% interest… “we will have to shell out additional money to repay the loans,” the resident rued.

A sanitary worker said discrimination was rampant in the city, as at a restaurant, more so after cleaning a drainage. He was asked to wash the jug while leaving. In such a scenario, how would I be able to take my family and live there?” he asks. Coimbatore city municipal corporation commissioner J Sravan Kumar claimed ignorance of the matter.

***                   ***

Irular tribes of TN in misery, face denial of education, due to casteists

The famous film Jai Bhim faced the wrath of Vanniars and their party PMK, as is well known. Those associated with the film were abused, threatened, framed up in cases. It was about the plight of Irulas, based on real life incidents of early 1990s. But the situation did not change basically as can be seen by this report  of thefederal.com, 29 July, 2020:

A group of people from the Irular community in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu are unable to pursue higher education as the caste Hindus in the region have been objecting to the issuance of community certificates to them, needed to get scholarships etc.

M Dhanalakshmi, Irula girl, had recently cleared her Class 12 exams and wanted to pursue BSc mathematics from a nearby college. Revenue officials visited the village and inquired about her caste. According to her father, they have submitted as many as 14 supporting documents to show that they are from the Irular tribes.

At the time of the inquiry, a group of caste Hindus, belonging to the Vanniyar community (Most Backward Community), thronged the village office and filed a petition, demanding the officials not to provide ST community certificate to those claiming themselves Irulars.

“The last time someone from the Irular community received community certificate was in 2018 and for the last two years, we have not issued ST certificate for the Irulars in the locality due to the caste clash,” one revenue official conceded  informally.

The main occupation of the Irular tribes had been catching snakes, rats and rabbits apart from trading snake skins and forest products. “However, after the government banned the snake skin trade and hunting of rabbits, we settled here and engaged in farming. ” said a relative.

A caste Hindu man, from T Parangani village, who did not want to be identified, said that they cannot let a tribal get first respect in the village. “We do not have any issues if they get community certificate as Scheduled Tribes. The only problem we have is in giving first respect to tribals.”

According to sources in the know, Dhanalakshmi’s family from the Irular tribes have been entitled to first respects, such as ‘Mudhal Mariyadhai’ in the village Draupathi temple. The caste Hindus demanded that the Irulars have to either give away the first respect in the village temple or they should not get the ST community certificate.

Speaking about the issue, the Pazhangudi Irular Paathukappu Sangam’s founder, Professor Prabha Kalvimani, said that it was not just the temple issue that is making the caste Hindus stop tribals from getting community certificate, but also other political and social reasons.

“Though the Irulars are a small group of people in the village, they have economically developed over a period of time and they too own farmlands and houses there. But the caste Hindus cannot accept that Irulars are also developing. If the Irulars get community certificate, they would also receive education and economically become equal to the caste Hindus in the locality, which they don’t want to encourage,” said the Professor.

Speaking about the political reasons, it was  said, “Since the candidate, who contested on a PMK (a political party backed by the Vanniyars) ticket, was defeated in the last Lok Sabha election in Villupuram constituency, there has been tension in the village. The situation aggravated after the candidate, backed by caste Hindus, lost the village panchayat election as well. So, assuming that the tribals are (getting) empowered economically and politically, they are now being targeted.”

Instead of settling the obvious simple issue,  District Revenue Officer K Rajendren said that they are inquiring into the matter… If we fail to arrive at a conclusion, we would seek the help of an anthropologist, and based on his recommendation, a community certificate would be issued. ” he said.

https://thefederal.com/states/south/tamil-nadu/caste-wrath-puts-irular-tribes-of-tn-in-misery-face-denial-of-education/

***            ***

Melavalavu mass murder of dalits in 1997 exposes the real face of Periyarist Govts of DMK and ADMK

Melavalavu

Melavalavu mass murder is a landmark case that haunts Tamilnadu polity for over two decades now, and hence merits a relook. (Wikipedia has a detailed article on this massacre.) Perhaps nowhere else in India so many were murdered  for contesting in a place reserved for SCs.

Previously a ‘ General Constituency’, Melavalavu   panchayat  in 1996 was declared to be Reserved for the Scheduled Caste people, but the dominant communities warned the SCs not to contest the seat. It is an area dominated by Thevars and Kallar caste. Ambalakarar community was cited by the HC judgment.

The judgment narrated the case thus:

During the Panchayat Elections in the year 1996, there was some protest from Ambalakara community that SC (Scheduled Caste) people should not contest the elections. In the following incidents, some of the houses belonging to the members of the Scheduled Caste were burnt down. After conciliation, election was conducted on 31.12.1996 and a SC candidate by name Murugesan (Deceased-1) was elected as President of Melavalavu Panchayat. However, he was not able to perform his duty freely and without fear…

The President and others  came  to the Dt. Collector Office, Madurai, to claim compensation for the damages caused to the houses of 3 persons by fire…They were returning to the village by bus when the attack with sickles etc took place.

On June 30, 1997, a group of Caste Hindus, intercepted a bus in which Murugesan,  panchayat president of Melavalavu (near Melur, Madurai dt), was travelling along with five others including panchayat vice president Mookan. Enraged over the district administration’s official support to Murugesan’s appointment, the miscreants hacked the five to death and beheaded Murugesan. His head was thrown into a well, half a kilometre away from the spot.DMK had formed its fourth Govt in 1996 May. This incident took place a year later. It was preceded by violence including burning of  dalit houses. Like it happened in Keelavenmani (1968), an year after DMK formed its first govt. 

As many as 44 accused in the case were charge-sheeted and 17 were given life sentences. The state govt did not contest the acquittal of 23 persons. The conviction was contested but was upheld by the High Court, which criticized the trial court for not punishing under SC-ST Act, as also by the Supreme Court , approached by the convicts. One person died during trial. The Supreme Court confirmed, in 2009, the convictions.

All those  convicted by High Court for mass murder were released by Govt !

They were released by Govt orders, to commemorate Periyarist leaders! That is in a situation where lakhs of under-trials remain in jails for decades: In 2008, three were released by DMK Govt to mark the birthday of Anna Durai. Another convict Jothi died in jail in 2010. Remaining 13 (OBC Thevars by caste, as per TNM, Nov 28,2019) were released, on grounds of good conduct while in prison,  by AIADMK Govt in 2019 to mark the ‘centenary’ of MGR, which was a fraud:  

MG Ramachandran (1917-1987), former CM’s centenary was actually observed in 2017. Their release in the name of MGR’s centenary was only an excuse. The Govt. claimed the programs were postponed in two districts, Chennai and Kanyakumari, where they were held in Sep 2018.  But the release order was issued in 2019 Nov. 

In the face of protests and tensions, however, they were not allowed to enter the village by the Madurai Bench of  High Court, and were made to stay in Vellore till a petition against early release was disposed off. In February 2020, the High Court withdrew the interim order which restricted them to Vellore dt.

Those protesting the release were arrested on Nov 22, 2019, even as the Madras High Court expressed its displeasure against their release; it had asked ‘where is t he safety to the SC-ST communities, if such life convicts are released” , and asked to produce the relevant records. It restrained the convicts not to enter the village, and confined them to vellore Dt.

The Supreme Court clarified many times that life sentence means till the end of one’s natural life. But the State decided otherwise. Thus the release of convicts, in a case of mass murder of elected SC representatives, was a denial of justice by resorting to brazen circumvention of laws.

Such convicts, when released, indulged in vengeance again, as seen in many cases.  (See The Hindu’s  latest report  on April 6,2022, cited in part-2.)

Fears and feelings of victims’ families

Times of India Madurai (November 21, 2019)  reported the fears and feelings:

Manimegala, the wife of slain dalit panchayat president Murugesan of Melavalavu, was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Madurai, when the news of the premature release of the 13 convicts of the massacre case flashed on TVs 10 days ago. The first thing she did was to call her 28-year-old son Vimalraj to know about his whereabouts and safety. Though there has not been any dispute between the dalits at Ambedkar Nagar and other castes at Melavalavu after the massacre, the mere thought of the incident sends a chill down her spine.

Manimegala was just 24 and was carrying her younger daughter when her husband and other elected representatives were hacked to death in a cold-blooded mass murder. The child was later named Murugeswari, after her husband’s name. “My younger daughter has not seen her father and I had fought all odds to raise my three children. Look where things are. They are now free and are happily leading their life with their family. Where is justice,” she said.

M Pachaimmal, 50, wife of Vice Presidnt Mookan, said that her entire family was in disarray due to the absence of her husband. Her 38-year-old son is still jobless, and she had to marry her daughters off at younger ages.

“We can barely make our both ends meet now with the resources,” she said.
“What we got from the government was some money and a job as a road worker. Passing every day is very difficult for me as work will be allotted at any corner of Melur. I have become physically weak and finding it difficult to toil under the sun…”

The Hindu in an editorial (Nov 19,2019) said ‘the release sent out an undesirable message to the society at large.’ It pointed out that “hundreds of prisoners”  were released by the Govt in 2019, many of them “without regard to the nature of the crimes committed”, and ignoring the relevant remission guidelines.

Their release by the two govts was criticised by dalit activists. Kathir of Evidence (an NGO) said it had set a very bad precedent. Karuppaiah ,  brother of one victim, said it was to placate the Thevar vote bank, and a petition opposing release was sent by family members to the Govt.

“The perpetrators were convicted under Indian Penal Code (IPC). That’s why they are able to get released from the prison. Had they been convicted under the SC/ST Act, the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act wouldn’t have applied to them,” says Madurai-based independent researcher Pandian, who works on Dalit rights.

He says Murugesan, before the fatal attack, had filed several complaints with authorities about the discrimination meted out to him. But the state has failed to protect him.

Apart from a few Dalit activists, much of Tamilnadu’s civil society, not to speak of Veeramanis, are passive if not silent about all these things: many including dalit elite are aligned with this or that ruling class party, in the name of Periyar or LTTE; objectively speaking they are facilitating them. It is high time they stand up, break their silence, call a spade a spade, and launch a campaign against the misdeeds and unholy alliances of Periyarist  parties.

VCK

VCK had built a memorial for the murder victims, at Ambedkar Nagar in Madurai. Every year thousands gathered there to pay their respects, under police supervision.  Nov 21, 2019 (TOI photo )   

On the release of the 13 convicts in the 1996 Melavalavu mass murder case, Prof Palanithurai said  “the present BJP government”  (it was in fact AIADMK Govt, blessed by the BJP at the Centre…but that was thus perceived )  has introduced a “structured fear” among the Dalit communities through its anti-minority measures.(thefederal.com,  19 November, 2019)

Melavalavu People Thanking Lawyers who involved themselves in this case to get justice for victims.

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Read earlier articles on this theme here :

‘Honour killings’ in the land of ‘self-respect movement’ (06/12/2021), https://countercurrents.org/2021/12/honour-killings-in-the-land-of-self-respect-movement-part-1/

Social Justice in words, Brazen Casteism And Slavery in Practice , in Tamil Nadu, (07/01/2022)

https://countercurrents.org/2022/01/social-justice-in-words-brazen-casteism-and-slavery-in-practice-in-tamil-nadu/

Ramakrishnan, author of this series, was a media person who contributed articles, published in countercurrents.org


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One Comment

  1. S. N. Murthy Ch says:

    Election of candidates belong to S.C.., etc., downtrodden communities and of women candidates through reservations is a political farce in several states including AP, more particularly in local bodies. It is quite disheartening to know about more pathetic situation in Tamilnadu.