Caste atrocities in Tamil Nadu continue unabated despite the pandemic induced lockdown. Some caste fanatics are even taking advantage of the lockdown to further oppress the socially and economically marginalised communities. The Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has been reduced to just a law on paper by these continuing acts of discrimination and atrocities.
The silence of the government and the major opposition party, both claiming to have championed the cause of social justice remains a major motivating factor for such cruelty. This is complemented by the deafening silence of the mainstream media, which hardly dedicates time for addressing the truth.
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has documented more than 80 such incidents of atrocities on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC). The list was released by K Balakrishnan, state secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
HONOUR KILLING CLAIMS TWO LIVES
The number of caste related incidents have increased after the lockdown from March 24. In Tiruvannamalai district, a youth named Sudhakar from the OBC community was murdered for marrying a girl of a relatively higher ranked OBC community. The victim had returned to his native area from Chennai after the lockdown was imposed. Earlier, the couple were forcefully separated by a local khap panchayat six months before the lockdown had begun.
Another incident of honour killing was reported from Pudukkottai district, where a girl, Savithri, was murdered by her parents for trying to elope with her lover to Coimbatore. The police cited the lockdown norms and prevented them from leaving the district. The girl was later handed over to her parents, reportedly against her wish.
Also read: TN: At Least 30 Major Incidents of Caste-based Violence During Lockdown, Says Study
K Samuvel Raj, General Secretary of TNUEF said, “The silence of the government on caste atrocities is very disheartening. The incidents are treated more like law and order issues or disputes among a group of people. The government doesn't even take action as per the act, indirectly supporting such activities.”
9 MURDERS/SUICIDES DURING LOCKDOWN
The lockdown has witnessed nine murders of the members from the dalit community. The offenders belonged to the OBC community which is classified as Backward Class and Most Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu.
Two individuals were killed in Cuddalore district, while Thanjavur, Vizhupuram, Tiruppur, Namakkal, Salem, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts witnessed one death each.
A girl named Karthika of Tirupur district died by suicide after being threatened by her ex-boyfriend, Pugazhendhi, belonging to a backward caste. He threatened to make public their intimate photos in social media. Priyadharshini, a nurse by profession in Namakkal district died of mysterious circumstances, and the reason still remains uncertain owing to lack of stringent enquiry into the incident.
ATTACKS ON INTER CASTE COUPLES
The lockdown has been ‘utilised’ by the miscreants to take revenge on the inter-caste couples. Three such incidents were reported, one each in Kallakurichi, Dindigul and Pudukottai districts.
“The number of incidents which didn't come to our notice or to the open would be much higher than the reported ones. The mechanism needs more teeth and prompt action from the administration to curb such incidents,” added Samuvel.
In Kallakurichi district, the members of the MBC community, attacked Suganya and her husband Elangovan, a dalit at their home. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, who arrived on the spot was also attacked by the miscreants, escalating the tension.
Another couple, Tamil Selvan, a dalit, and Kavitha, belonging to backward community had married and lived in another village out of fear. The couple visited Kavitha’s parents after she gave birth to twin baby boys, only to be greeted with violent attacks by her relatives.
FOUR MANUAL SCAVENGING DEATHS
The lockdown period also saw the demise of four youths due to suffocation while cleaning a septic tank in Thoothukudi district. Somasundaram, the owner of the house has been booked under Section 288 and Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. The four deceased Pandi (24), Isakiraja (20), Bala (23) and Dinesh (20), were residents of Veervanallur in Tirunelveli district.
The state holds the dubious distinction of being home to highest number of manual scavenging deaths. Even as manual scavenging is legally banned, the practice is rampant across the state.
“The Vigilance and Monitoring Committee of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act headed by the Chief Minister should be convened immediately. The revenue and police officials who work hand-in-glove with the culprits should be punished as well. The government should ensure such cruelties are stopped by effective implementation of the act and appropriate action as per law,” said Samuvel.
Also read: Dalit Atrocities: In Pursuit of Justice Amid Lockdown