Row erupts after Dalit family is not allowed to bury relative at common TN burial ground

Published on Dec 06, 2022 12:15 AM IST

The case comes in the backdrop of at least two such alleged instances of atrocities against Dalits being reported across the state within a week.

A senior police official on the condition of anonymity said: “Both communities have given to us in writing that such issues will not happen again.” (Representative Photo)
A senior police official on the condition of anonymity said: “Both communities have given to us in writing that such issues will not happen again.” (Representative Photo)
By, Chennai

A row erupted after a 102-year-old Dalit woman was not allowed to be buried in a common burial ground in an alleged case of caste discrimination in a Annur village on the outskirts of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, people aware of the matter said on Monday.

The case comes in the backdrop of at least two such alleged instances of atrocities against Dalits being reported across the state within a week. Last week, a school head mistress in Erode district was booked for allegedly making the students belonging to Schedule Caste clean a toilet and a salon owner in Thanjavur district was arrested for allegedly refusing to give haircuts to men belonging to the Schedule Caste.

On Saturday evening, the kin of the deceased Dalit woman, identified as Rangammal, were told to take her body back from the village burial ground in Annur village, Coimbatore. “They (Gounders) asked us as to why we brought the body here and told us to take her body back,” said her granddaughter P Kalpana. Gounders who are considered a backward community are said to be dominant and politically powerful in Coimbatore.

Kalpana said: “The burial ground allotted to Dalits — which is 1.5km into a forest area — is full and the route till there is risky”. The common burial ground within the village was less than a five minute walk for them. The family along with Rangammal’s body sat in protest at the common burial ground until 2am on Sunday.

Later, the family walked with the body to a burial ground used by Dalits inside the forest in Kurumbapalayam outside their village and performed the burial.

“We just wanted a space next to theirs but some of them were vocally against it,” said Kalpana. On getting information, the local police and revenue officials intervened in the matter and convinced both the communities that they will build a new common burial ground which all the communities can use. On Monday, signatories from both communities reached the district collector’s office to take the matter forward.

A senior police official on the condition of anonymity said: “No such instance has happened in this village before.” “The police and revenue officials have conducted a peacekeeping meeting. The issue seems to be more about lack of space. Both communities have given to us in writing that such issues will not happen again. Under a government scheme, we will ensure that they have a common burial ground.”

On December 3, police had arrested a panchayat union primary school headmistress, Geetha Rani in Perundurai, Erode, for making six SC students clean toilets for one year. During probe, police found blisters in the hands of the children as they were using bleaching powder for cleaning, said an official.

“We had asked the education department to conduct a parallel investigation,” said Perundurai deputy superintendent of police Gautham Goyal. “The statements of all the students corroborated that they were made to clean the toilets for a year, based on which Rani was booked,” Goyal said.

The case had come to the fore after a 10-year-old child was found to have contracted dengue and he informed his parents and the health care workers at the Erode Government Medical College that he was bitten by mosquitoes while cleaning toilets. The parents filed a complaint with the Perundurai police and the child welfare committee. “She (headmistress) tried to evade arrest but we found her and she is now in judicial custody,” Goyal said.

Geetha was booked under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, and Sections 3(1)(r) (intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within ‘public view’) and 3(1)(j) (making a member of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes do manual scavenging or employing him for such purpose)of the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015 and Section 284 (negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance) of the Indian Penal Code.

On December 2, police arrested salon owner Veeramuthu in Thanjavur for refusing haircuts to men from the Dalit community. One of them filed a case in the Orathanadu police station. “He said he was only following what the village heads had directed... that they won’t sell items and provide services to those from the SC community,” said a police officer. The accused was booked under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The district authorities are attempting to sensitise the village residents and heads.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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