TN: TNUEF Calls Upon Govt to Ensure Rights of Dalit, Tribal Panchayat Leaders
Chennai: Considering the high number of atrocities against members of the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has demanded government intervention to end the cruel practices of untouchability, honour killings and rampant manual scavenging.
The fourth state conference of the TNUEF, held in Chennai on January 4 and 5, also passed a resolution seeking honourable burial for the socially oppressed communities. The conference demanded that the Union government ensure that reservation is implemented in higher education institutions.
In a first of its kind, the conference honoured hundreds of inter-caste marriage couples, who defied opposition from the caste groups.
‘LAND RIGHTS REMAIN A DREAM’
The TNUEF, since its formation in the past 15 years, has made massive strides in preventing and exposing the caste atrocities and untouchability practices in Tamil Nadu. Despite the progress made by the state, such practices continue to haunt the members of the dalit community.
Twin tumbler systems in shops, denial of entry in temples, untouchability walls and right to burial grounds remain primary challenges for the socially oppressed community.
K Radhakrishnan, president of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM) and the minister for SC/ST welfare in the government of Kerala, recalled the political will of the Left government in Kerala aimed at uplifting the downtrodden community and empowering them.
"The first EMS Namboodiripad government in 1957 implemented land reforms to ensure the socially oppressed communities owned the land they ploughed and harvested. Such drastic reforms are the foundation of inclusive growth in the state,” he said.
K Radhakrishnan of DSMM honouring the intercaste couples in the public meeting.
Such land reforms remain unimplemented in most Indian states, leading to a higher number of landless families, particularly among dalits and tribals.
TNUEF has led struggles to reclaim the panchami and bhoodan lands taken over by the members of the other communities.
STRUGGLES FOR RIGHTS
In the recent years, even during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, there was a spurt in the number of attacks on dalits. Another major issue which made it to the highlights of the conference was that dalit panchayat presidents were denied permission to hoist the national flag during Republic and Independence Days.
The TNUEF held a survey in 386 panchayats on the problems faced by elected panchayat presidents. The survey found that 20 panchayat presidents were unable to hoist the national flag, 42 were unable to place the name board, 33 could not have a seat in the office and 22 could not have the name board in the office.
"All elected representatives from the dalit and tribal communities should be ensured the rights to hoist the national flag, seats in the offices and strict action on those attacking and preventing the elected leaders,” the conference report read.
The survey also found that 11 panchayat presidents were even unable to discharge their duties. The conference demanded the government enact special laws to punish those indulging in such activities.
Radhakrishnan added: "India has elected a woman from the tribal community as the President of the country. But the atrocities on students and other members of the dalit and tribal communities continue. The government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) guided by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will not abolish these atrocities since they believe in the caste structure.”
The TNUEF highlighted the struggles led by it that ensured the demolition of untouchability walls, ensured seats in bus shelters, reclaimed encroached lands, and ensured housing and land Pattas.
A recent incident of human faeces being mixed in the overhead water tank used by dalits had created outrage. The conference condemned the inhuman act and called upon the state government to take speedy action against the culprits.
The conference elected T Chellakannu as the president, K Samuel Raj as general secretary, and E Mohana as the finance secretary.
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