FROM THE EDITOR
DALITS IN THE MEDIA
In Tamil Nadu village, Dalits are forced to
bathe with buffaloes
Wednesday, December 9, 1998,
ERODE (TAMIL NADU), DEC 7: As its
name suggests, Nagamanaickenpalayam, a village near here, is dominated
by 200 `upper caste' Naicker families. Ironically, this is the same
community to which the legendary Periyar E.V Ramaswamy Naicker,
the founding father of the Dravidian movement, belonged. But his "self-respect''
legacy seemingly means little to the Naickers in this village beside the
Cauvery, under Kodumudi town panchayat.
They recently denied the village's 100-odd Scheduled Caste families access
to the nearest government hospital at Kunnathur. Then, the Dalit women
were told they could not use the bathing ghat but must go downstream and
bathe where buffaloes do.
The bathing ghat was built by the previous AIADMK government at a cost
of Rs 50,000 under the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana. When AIADMK panchayat union
councillor Palanichamy was told of the Naickers diktat, he ordered the
Dalits to use the ghat. Encouraged by this "political backing'',
some Dalit women ventured into the ghat last week, onlyto be threatened
with sexual harassment and death. News of this spread like wildfire and
indignant Dalit youths approached the nearby police station for justice.
But, as Kodumudi police inspector Muthu Nalliappan was on leave, the Naickers
blocked the attempt to file an FIR against them, and, on the contrary,
persuaded a sub-inspector to register a complaint by them. Meanwhile,
the upper castes imposed a social boycott to deny Dalits essential commodities.
V Venkatachalam, husband of panchayat president Vijaya, hurled abuse at
Dalit youths outside the police station and, with the village milk society
president, Magudapathi, blocked sale of milk to Dalits. Denied access
to essential commodities through the Public Distribution System, Dalits
now have to walk four km to Kodumudi town or two km to Noyyal. They are
also barred from venturing out of their colony or standing on the main
road. The eight-pillar mandapam, constructed by the panchayat union for
villagers to gather, is also out of bounds.
The local Communists took up the matter with the district collector and
the RDO, who in turn instructed the Kodumudi police station to solve the