A protest by youths demanding the removal of a caste wall in Tamil Nadu’s Salem were allegedly manhandled and then detained by the police on Thursday.
The members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) were conducting a ‘road roko’ in the city following a court order which directed the district administration to remove the caste wall in Kattumarakuttai, a dalit settlement in the city.
The protesting youths accused the police and the revenue department of delaying the wall’s demolition citing rural local body elections, even though the area comes under urban area.
The wall has been built on a property handed over by an individual for public usage. The court directed removal of the wall in December 2019 in a case filed by DYFI in 2012. Even after a month of the judgement being pronounced, the revenue and the police department were declining to implement the order, DYFI leaders said.
N Rejeesh Kumar, state president of DYFI, told NewsClick: "The issue has been burning for the past eight years and even after the court order, the demolition has not been done. We planned a protest demonstration after the peace committee meeting scheduled on January 29 was postponed without prior notice. The officials tried to delay the process which forced us to go for the road blockade."
Rejeesh said they were forced to go for the protest action because the authorities were not taking any action. "After repeated interventions and representations, the revenue department officials promised to complete the demolition once the rural local body elections were over, even though the location falls under urban area. The police department, too, cited the elections for their inability to provide protection. The officials promised to implement the order by the middle of January, but haven’t moved yet," he added.
As per report, the police threatened to remand the protesters in a move to prevent further protests, but the detained protesters refused to leave the hall even till late night. Earlier, the police offered to release the women protesters and remand the men alone. The officials then withdrew the threat and released all those detained after midnight.
The DYFI filed the case in 2012 after a member of the dominant caste built a wall across the place curtailing the movement of around 50 families belonging to the dalit community. The land was donated by an individual to the government for the purpose of a public road. But the construction of the wall encroaching the road was opposed ever since the work started. At present, the administration is delaying the implementation of the court orders.
Meanwhile, incidents relating to untouchability continue to rise in various forms across the state, with the state government and the administration seemingly reluctant to implement even court judgments.