Thursday, September 25, 2003

Caste Hindu-sponsored Dalits pull out of Keeripatti fray

MADURAI SEPT. 24. With both the Dalit candidates, who filed their nominations for Keeripatti panchayat president opting out today, the State Government's efforts at conducting by-elections for four reserved village panchayats - Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and Kottakatchiyendal in Virudhunagar district - on October 9 have suffered a setback.

According to official sources here, B. Atharmalai and P. Setty, who alone filed their papers with the backing of the majority Piramalai Kallars, withdrew from the contest. Accompanied by some caste Hindus, the two Dalits this morning went to the Usilampatti panchayat union office and withdrew their nominations.

In the Nattarmangalam and Kottukatchiyendal panchayats too, there will not be any by-election, as nominations were not filed for the panchayat president. In none of the four panchayats, nominations were filed for ward membership too.

In all likelihood, a by-election will be held in the Pappapatti panchayat, where Dalits of Karayampatti fielded their candidate, K. Muthan, against the nominee of the caste Hindus, K. Azhagar, for presidentship. With one more day to go for withdrawal of nominations, a final picture would emerge only on Thursday.

During the recent visit by the Government-appointed high-power committee to these villages, in a bid to create an atmosphere conducive to the conduct of the by-elections at least after seven years, the locals, particularly Piramalai Kallars, assured the panel members that they would arrive at a `good decision' in consultation with the elders.

Mr. Azhagar and Muniandi filed their nominations for president of Pappapatti on September 20. Both of them are backed by the caste Hindus. Of them, Muniandi is a `dummy' candidate.

Protesting against the high-power committee's "failure" to visit their colonies and listen to their grievances, the Dalits of Karayampatti decided to put up their own candidate for panchayat president. Mr. Muthan filed papers on September 22. The same day, the caste Hindus, made their nominees, - Mr. Atharmalai and Mr. Setty - file papers for Keeripatti panchayat president.

In the last by-election held in April 2003 also, the Dalit candidates sponsored by the Pirmalai Kallars - Thanikodi of Pappapatti and Karutha Kannan of Keeripatti - resigned their posts despite winning with an overwhelming majority, defeating their DPI rivals.

The caste Hindus have been demanding that the four panchayats be dereserved.

Source: The Hindu, September 25, 2003

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