Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Paper documents poll atrocities

By R. Ilangovan

MADURAI, DEC. 10. An exhaustive document on the atrocities perpetrated on Dalits during the recent local bodies polls in Tamil Nadu, has been prepared.

Signed by the leaders of various Dalit fora, this paper has been submitted to national leaders including the President and the Prime Minister. They personally met the Chief Minister and senior officials and briefed them about the violence. The national and State Human Rights Commissions have been informed.

The document, prepared by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights-Tamilnadu, (NCDHR), explained the large-scale atrocities, perpetrated by caste Hindus during the elections. Violence before and after the poll, intimidation and prevention of Dalit candidates from even filing nominations in the reserved panchayats of Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam in Madurai district, have found a place in the document.

The paper also deplored the anti-democratic practice of `auctioning' panchayat posts by caste Hindu villagers and the passive approach adopted by officials. The `auctioning' took place widely in the districts of Madurai, Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram and South and North Arcot, preventing the Dalits from securing power through the democratic exercise.

The other disturbing issue highlighted in the document was intolerance on the part of caste Hindus, who despised Dalit candidates in the fray in general constituencies. The cases under study were Sankaralingapuram in Tuticorin district and Marakalampatti in Dharmapuri district. When a Dalit entered the fray, caste Hindus of Marakalampatti unleashed violence in which 140 houses were damaged. Property worth Rs. 1.5 crores was damaged. The Dalits were forced to live in exile. At Sankaralingapuram, caste Hindus, in league with the police, attacked Dalit villagers and damaged their property. Hundreds were arrested.

For the caste Hindus of various village panchayats, the concept of `general constituency' meant exclusion of non- Dalits from the electoral exercise. This, according to Mr. J. Vincent of the NCDHR, led to large-scale violence during the panchayat polls. The Dalits in reserved village panchayats were prevented from even filing their papers, whereas in general panchayats they were not allowed to contest. ``The practice of social boycott'' of Dalits still persists in the State, claimed the document.

It wanted the State to declare the auctioning of panchayat posts `null and void'. Stringent action should be initiated against those officials who failed to conduct elections at Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam. Dalits should be armed with `double voting' rights. A nation-wide debate on caste and untouchability should also be organised, the paper demanded.

Source: The Hindu, December 11, 2001

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