Tamil Nadu: Dalits, Backed by Left, Thwart Construction of Untouchability Wall
TNUEF and CPI(M) held a protest on October 31 demanding the permanent stoppage of the untouchability wall in Sirkazhi, Mayiladuthurai district.
Untouchability practices, in different forms, prevail in over 600 villages across Tamil Nadu. Construction of untouchability walls near or around the residences of people belonging to the scheduled caste (SC) community is one of the common and discriminating forms of the legally banned practice.
Around 120 families of the SC community in Tandavankulam village of Mayiladuthurai district have temporarily halted an attempt to build an untouchability wall close to their locality. The landlord, who belongs to the Vanniyar community, an intermediate caste, has attempted to raise one such eight-foot-tall wall on the side close to Anna Nagar, where the people of the oppressed community have been living for several decades.
Besides, the landlord denied selling the land to the SC community members in yet another case of caste discrimination. Further, the public road used by the people to access school, ration shop, panchayat office and temple has been closed, citing the real estate business.
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has sought stringent action against the discriminatory practices prevailing in different forms across the state.
CONSTRUCTION HALTED TEMPORARILY
The Thandavankulam village panchayat is home to around 120 families belonging to the Paraiyar (SC) community. Some of them have resided in Anna Nagar for more than three generations.
There is around 15 acres of land close to Anna Nagar, belonging to a realtor who has put up the plots for sale since 2015. There are around ten houses of the SC community close to the plots, near which an attempt was made to construct a wall.
N Ilangovan, district secretary of TNUEF, told NewsClick, “The owner had constructed a foundation alongside the houses of the SC community. They had erected eight-foot tall pillars and unloaded slabs to hide the houses of the people as well. The TNUEF intervened, and after understanding the moto beside the construction, the work was stopped.”
During the protest, the TNUEF demanded the removal of construction materials from the site to ensure that the construction was permanently stopped.
The leaders of TNUEF, led by state general secretary K Samuel Raj submitted the demands to the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Sirkazhi taluk after the protest.
“If the owner had constructed a compound wall on all four sides of the area, no one would have questioned his intentions. This is a deliberate attempt to isolate the people belonging to the oppressed community,” Samuel Raj, general secretary of TNUEF, told NewsClick.
The residents and the TNUEF along with the leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] had lodged a complaint with the local police and revenue department on October 10 following altercations between the residents and the offender.
REFUSAL TO SELL LAND
The dalit families are, for several years, living close to the land up for sale. The families requested the owner to sell around 2,000 sq ft area to them, considering the cramped up area they already own.
“The families were willing to purchase some area of the land, to which the owner agreed in 2015. But in 2020, he refused to sell the land, stating that the price of land would go down if part of the land is sold to the dalit community,” Illangovan said.
The TNUEF has flagged this discriminatory practice with the police and the district administration. After the initial complaint was lodged, the revenue inspector and village administrative officer (VAO) inspected the site and confirmed the allegations by the dalit families.
“The revenue divisional officer (RDO) has promised to visit the site this week to ensure the maintenance of the status quo. The owner has also blocked a path used by the people to ]access the panchayat office, temple, school and ration shop,” Illangovan said.
However, the TNUEF has alleged of the police and major political parties acting indifferent on untouchability issues in the area.
‘UNITED BY CASTE’
The Kollidam block in Sirkazhi taluk is dominated by the Vanniyars, while dalits belonging to Pallar and Paraiyar communities are relatively minorities.
“The TNUEF conducted a survey about the discriminatory practices, particularly towards the dalit panchayat presidents. In most places, the Vanniyars capture the vice president posts and prevent the dalit presidents from functioning,” Illangovan said.
“Most political parties, with the exception of the Left, stand with the dominant castes. Even during this incident, a protest was held by a social activist against the dalits, in which most political parties participated, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Bharatiya Janata Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi and Indu Makkal Katchi,” he added.
The TNUEF and CPI(M) have called to strengthen the struggles against discriminatory practices based on caste. “We will stand with the oppressed people and ensure they get justice,” Samuel Raj said.
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