Dalit funeral triggers caste row in Vellore
A 46-year-old Dalit man’s dead body was lowered from a 20 feet high bridge over a river to ensure it could be cremated after upper- caste Hindus in Tamil Nadu’s Vaniyambadi , in Vellore district did not allow it to be carried through their land.
The incident happened on August 17, but it came to light on Wednesday after a video went viral, policemen in the Thimmampettai police station said.
In the 3.46 minute-long video, a group of Dalits is seen lowering the hearse from the bridge. Another group, standing near the cremation ground besides the bridge then picks up the hearse.
According to police, the deceased , N Kuppan (46), passed on Saturday in the Adi Dravidar colony in the town. (Dalits are officially called Adi Dravidars in Tamil Nadu).
“Due to the recent rainfall, the Narayanapuram Adi Dravidar Colony people’s crematorium is not in good condition. Therefore, they are using an old crematorium near the Palar River.
For reaching this, they have to pass agricultural land of upper caste Hindus.
They — mainly Vellala Gounders and Vanniyars— allegedly prevented the body from being taken through their land and asked the Dalits to take a different route,” said a police officer at the Thimampettai Police Station at Vaniyambadi who asked not to be named.
The Dalits claim the path they wanted to use is a common one. “Though it was common pathway and we used it since our ancestors’ days, they fenced it recently. When we requested them to open the fence, they were not ready. So, we were forced to carry the body around and lower it from the bridge,” said a relative of Kuppan who identified himself only as Kumar.
Priyanka Pankajam, Sub-Collector, Tirupathur, said that a probe had been ordered into the incident. “We came to know this only on Wednesday evening. we will initiate stringent action, if anybody is found guilty,” she added.