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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Dalits in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai village cremate kin in the open; allege discrimination by upper castes

Dalits in a Madurai village of Tamil Nadu claim upper castes didn’t let them use the general cremation ground, forcing them to bury their dead in an open ground. A probe has been ordered in the incident.

tamil-nadu Updated: Aug 29, 2019 19:31 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Dalits in a Madurai village have alleged that they were turned away by the upper castes when they tried to bury their dead in the general cremation ground.
Dalits in a Madurai village have alleged that they were turned away by the upper castes when they tried to bury their dead in the general cremation ground. (.(SHUTTERSTOCK Representative Image))
         

In a shocking incident, which has come to the attention of authorities rather belatedly, a section of Dalits in P Subbulapuram Village in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district have alleged that they were forced to cremate the body of a relative in an open land as the upper-caste Hindus prevented them from using a general cremation ground that they use exclusively.

Dalits of the village say they have been suffering for years due to lack of a proper cremation ground.

“We have a piece of land for cremating our people. But it has no sheds and other infrastructure needed to carry out rituals before cremation. While we are forced to manage during summer months, it is very hard to burn bodies in the rainy season,” said M Kuzhandaivelu, a villager from Subbulapuram.

According to Kuzhandaivelu, on August 19, a 45-year old community member, Shanmugavel died, but could not be buried in the flooded cremation ground used by the community, forcing them to look towards the general cremation yard which is just opposite. “But, the upper-caste Hindus, mostly Mukkulathor Thevars did not allow this to happen,” he said and added that they were eventually forced to cremate Shanmugavel at a nearby piece of land.

Kuzhandaivelu said when compared to their cremation ground, which had no roof and platform, the one used by the upper-caste Hindus was on a higher ground, making it safe from flooding, and it had good infrastructure too.

“So, we had no choice, except to cremate Shanmugavel’s body at a place between general crematorium and ours’. As the rain was heavy, we were forced to use petrol to burn the body as wood doesn’t burn in rain,” he further explained the community’s plight.

Perayur Tahsildar T Ananthi said that the matter had come to her attention only on Thursday and steps were being taken to provide proper shelter and infrastructure for the cremation ground used by the Dalits.

“I have visited the spot and interacted with the Dalit community. I have asked the Block Development Officer (BDO) to send a proposal to ensure proper facilities at the cremation ground which would be ready for use within a week,” the Tahsildar assured HT.

“We have ordered a probe over the incident. Once the probe is completed, we will take further actions against the wrongdoers,” Ananthi added.

In a similar incident, upper-caste Hindus at Vellore had blocked way to a cremation ground forcing Dalits to lower their kin’s dead body from Palar River’s bridge in Narayanapuram.

The Vellore district administration’s bid to allot a separate land to Dalits was slammed by the Madras High Court on Tuesday. The High Court questioned the idea of separate cremation ground for Dalits by terming it “inequality”.