Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Dalit beaten up, paraded in Sivaganga

By R. Ilangovan

Sivaganga Oct. 29. A Dalit farm worker was ``thrashed and paraded half naked'' when he resisted the use of machine, instead of human labour, for desilting a village tank at Satharasankottai in Sivaganga district.

The revolting act was allegedly enacted before the entire village community by a powerful few, who resented the Dalit interference in desilting works in the traditional water holding system.

Velu was brutally attacked when he raised objections to village labour not being engaged. ``The councillor (M.S. Sahabudeen of the AIADMK) and his men beat me with wooden logs and dragged me to the village bus stop,'' he said. The village, with a strong caste Hindu population, remained a mute witness. Velu was rescued by his brother's son, who promised the assailants that he would henceforth keep silent.

A spate of complaints, has, however, forced the district administration to suspend the desilting works pending further enquiry.

Water was brimful in the Nainappan Servai tank when the works were undertaken. ``We asked them not to empty the tank and to carry out desilting in summer. But they refused,'' claimed a Dalit labourer in the village.

Desilting was being done under the `Sampoorna Gramma Suya Velai Vaippu Thittam', which ensures water-user participation, enlisting the services of those who live below the poverty line. The work order was issued in the name of Gnanakkan, a village Dalit. But the work, according to villagers, was being ``executed'' by Mr. Sahabudeen, Kalayarkoil union councillor (ward 16), and his men with an excavator.

The villagers of surrounding hamlets, both Dalits and caste Hindus, are the major user-groups of this water body, which has remained silted up for four decades. ``We entirely rely on this tank for bathing and other purposes. Cattle also drink water from the tank, which has a five-acre water spread,'' said Velu, who is now undergoing treatment in the Sivaganga Government Hospital for ``multiple injuries.''

Rift in district AIADMK

The issue has caused a rift among senior AIADMK leaders of the district too. M.P. Arjunan, district deputy secretary (Farmers' wing), claimed that desilting had not been done properly. He accused Mr. Sahabudeen of flouting all norms for ``obvious reasons'', and demanded an enquiry into the whole incident.

The district CPI (M) secretary, M. Arjunan, has submitted to the Chief Minister a report on the desilting scandal.

But Mr. Sahabudeen denies all charges. Talking to The Hindu, he justified the use of the machine as ``the tank bed was of hard rock, with wild bush. Human labour would never yield the desired result.'' The charges against him were ``malicious and politically motivated.'' Velu was being ``instigated'' by some vested elements within the party, he said.

The police have registered cases against Mr. Sahabudeen and four others under Sections 147, 342 and 323 of IPC and Section 3 (1) (10) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

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