Nov 13: Dharmapuri mob violence against dalits

November 13, 2012

[1] NOV 8: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/3-dalit-colonies-face-mob-fury-in-dharmapuri/article4076539.ece

[2] NOV 9: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/dalits-will-be-rehabilitated-fully-dharmapuri-collector/article4080313.ece

[3] NOV 10: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/dharmapuri-incident-serious-hc/article4082173.ece

[4] NOV 11: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/naikkankottai-once-a-naxal-heartland/article4085711.ece

[5] NOV 12: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/attack-on-dalits-was-planned-national-commission-for-scs/article4090674.ece

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[1]

Three colonies of Dalits (of the Adi-Dravida community) near Naikkankottai in Dharmapuri district of western Tamil Nadu remained benumbed on Thursday by the fury unleashed on them by a rampaging mob of caste Hindus on Wednesday.

As many as 268 dwellings – huts, tiled-roof and one or two-room concrete houses – were torched by the mob after a caste Hindu man, Nagarajan, committed suicide over his daughter marrying a Dalit boy from one of the colonies. Police said there was no casualty as occupants of the houses escaped and took shelter in another village. Ninety persons were arrested by Thursday evening and cases registered against another 500 “unidentified” persons.

The prime target of the attack was Natham Colony, whose resident, Ilavarasan (23) had married N. Divya (20), a caste Hindu. But, the mob’s fury was also directed at the adjoining Anna Nagar Colony and Kondampatti Old and New Colonies.

It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached the Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, only a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court directed Ilavarasan’s family to return the girl on Wednesday. The girl refused to go with her father, who later hanged himself at his house in Sellankottai, just half a km from the Dalit colonies. And then, the mobs went on the rampage.

According to police, one group of incensed members of his community protested on the Dharmapuri-Tiruppattur Road, blocking traffic with the trees they felled as well as with boulders and signboards. At the same time, another group entered the Dalit colonies and set ablaze the dwellings. The Dalits alleged that their houses were looted and the valuables taken away. The attack started around 4.45 p.m. and went on till 7 p.m. Police reinforcements and fire tenders could not reach the spot in time because of the hurdles placed on the road leading to the colonies. Some vehicles of the Dalits too were torched. The mob fled when police reinforcements arrived.

Superintendent of Police, Krishnagiri, M. Ashok Kumar, reached the spot and took control of the situation, as Dharmapuri’s SP Asra Garg was away in Madurai. Mr. Garg, however, reached the spot at night.

Police personnel drawn from five districts restored order. Fire tenders put out the blaze in the colonies and recovery vans were deployed to clear the road blocks.

A core police team headed by Mr. Sanjay Kumar worked out strategies to keep the situation under control. Inspector-General of Police (West Zone), visited the colonies on Thursday and supervised the security arrangements and the investigation into the attack. Police said Ilavarasan and Divya were safe and under police protection.

After spending the night in shock, fear and without shelter, close to 1,500 Dalits were on Thursday accommodated in Government schools.

District Collector R. Lilly visited the affected persons and ordered relief for them.

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[2]

Families affected by the arson and looting allegedly by a strongcaste-Hindu mob in Natham Colony near Naikkankottai would be rehabilitated in a fitting manner. They were given food, clothes and shelter by the district administration, said Collector R. Lilly.

Compensation

She told The Hindu that she visited all the three affected colonies on Thursday to take stock of the prevailing situation, console the families and assured them of all possible help for their rehabilitation.

The families would be given minimum number of utensils to lead their life in a dignified manner, she added.

They would be given compensation under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act after the charge sheets were filed in the court. Under the act the affected families will get a minimum of Rs. 60,000 to a maximum of Rs. 1.20 lakh under the Act.

However, the district administrating is chalking out plans to give immediate relief through different schemes.

Naxal-prone

As the village was once Naxal-prone, the district administration will take special efforts to guide the youth in the colonies by givingemployment training through the Socio Economic Development Project(SEDP).

The district administration is getting Rs. 7-crore for the scheme annually from the government. Apart from this, she was also mulling conducting awareness programmes on communal harmony across the district to prevent recurrence of this kind of violence against the oppressed section of the society.

Peace meeting

Ms. Lilly said that a peace meeting would be conducted between the Caste Hindus and Dalits from the affected colonies during the course of next week for a long-lasting solution to the communal clash.

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[3]

Pointing out that the incident in Dharmapuri district on November 7 is serious in nature, the Madras High Court on Friday directed the authorities to make proper arrangements for the stay of the displaced families and provide them security.

Besides stating that it would be fit and proper if the investigation is done by an officer in the rank of Deputy Inspector-General, the court directed the Special Government Pleader to file a counter affidavit giving details of the incident, action taken by the administration and the result of the investigation.

The First Bench of Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam passed the order on a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the authorities for providing relief under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Natham, Annanagar and Kondampatti old and new colonies in the district.

Petitioner S. Sengkodi, an advocate here, stated that senior officers known for their integrity, independence and commitment to the cause of weaker sections should monitor the relief and rehabilitation measures.

The Bench said that it had been stated that on November 7 evening, 268 dwelling huts, tiled roof and one or two-room concrete houses were torched by a mob after a caste Hindu, Nagaraj, committed suicide after his daughter married a Dalit boy.

“From the news item published in The Hindu on November 9, it appears that the Chief Minister has expressed her anguish at the caste violence in Dharmapuri and warned that stringent action would be initiated against those responsible for the incidents, besides sanctioning Rs. 50,000 to the victims from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.”

Special Government Pleader, E. Sampath Kumar, did not dispute the fact that 268 houses had been ransacked. Immediate action had been taken against those responsible and cases registered for offences, including attempt to murder and under the provisions of the SC/ST Act and Tamil Nadu Public Properties (Prevention of Damages and Loss) Act.

92 caste Hindus arrested so far

So far, 92 caste Hindus had been arrested. Intensive search was on to arrest others. In the meantime, some people of Kondampatti village destroyed two houses. The police had initiated action against those persons responsible for the act. All requisite facilities had been provided to victims.

The Bench said it had been informed that the Chief Minister had already directed the DIG of Police concerned to maintain strict law and order and take action against miscreants.

It posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

The authorities should submit a status report and the counter affidavit on that date.

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[4]

Naikkankottai village in Dharmapuri district, which witnessed a flare-up against Dalits early this week, was once a Naxal heartland. The Dalits in the village had enjoyed the support of the Naxal movement in the early 80s.

“The boys (naxals) from Coimbatore and Dharmapuri supported our struggle for better wages. Though many had never approved their ideology, a few youths from both Dalit and Vanniyar castes were drawn to it,” recalled 60-year old Dalit, Kasi.

Many in the village still remember them. On the other side of the Dharmapuri-Tirupattur Highways and right opposite Anna Nagar Dalit colony in the village stands an imposing and brightly white-washed memorial of sickle and hammer, erected on June 24, 1984, for the slain Naxalite leaders, Appu and Balan, in police encounters in 1970 and 1980. It carries the portraits of these two leaders claiming that they had sacrificed their lives for working class.

“Some people come here every year on a particular day and clean it before paying their homage,” says ‘oor kounder’ (village head) Perumal. This 80-year old Vanniyar claims that the land on which the memorial stands belonged to his family. “They snatched it from my father,” he claims. He and his wife are living in the hut nearby tilling his half acre land on which he raises maize. The government knows all, he further adds.

That the extreme Left movement had then received an `overwhelming’ support in the Dalit colonies, especially among youths, was evident from the fact that the State, after getting rid of the movement, had devised a special package scheme for the improvement of socio economical status of the people in and around Naikkankottai.

But the waning of the Naxal movement and the failure of Left parties such as the Communist Party of India and the CPI (Marxist) to fill in the vacuum at that time has led to the emergence of caste-based outfits that attempt to promote ‘mono caste culture’ in the cluster of villages in Dharmapuri block today. “The sharp rise in casteist tendencies that has turned the Naikkankottai into a Vanniyar stronghold and constant police monitoring on the village had forced many Dalits to migrate to Bangalore and Tirupur since early nineties in search of jobs,” says Madhu in Anna Nagar whose house was razed down in the recent flare-up.

CPI Dharmapuri district joint secretary J. Prathaban concedes that Left parties preferred to keep off the village when Naxal movement was active there. Harur MLA and senior CPI (M) party functionary Dilli Babu vouchsafes the same. “We, however, have decided to engage ourselves for the uplift of the working class in the village,” Mr Babu adds.

State Committee member of CPI (ML) Chandramohan wonders how a village such as Naikkankottai where communism ideology is well-entrenched, would support castes.

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[5]

The November 7 attack on three Dalit colonies in the district was a well-organised crime, Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, said here on Monday.

A mob of over 1,800 persons looted and torched the dwellings of Dalits in three colonies of Naikkankottai village in the district after a caste Hindu committed suicide, distraught over his daughter’s marriage to a Dalit youth from one of the colonies.

It was not anguish over a single incident (the suicide). It was a well-organised and planned attack, he told reporters.

After inspecting the houses that were targeted and interacting with the people and officials, Mr. Punia said that the mob used petrol bombs and torched the houses after taking away valuables. The rough estimate of the loss was Rs. 6.95-crore.

Rehabilitation

On rehabilitation, Mr. Punia referred to the district administration’s plan to reconstruct 40 fully damaged houses at a cost of Rs. 1.5 lakh each and to undertake repairs to the partially damaged ones at a total cost of Rs. 40.90 lakh. The estimates had been sent to the government for approval. The works would begin soon after Deepavali.

Till these works were over, the affected people would be accommodated in temporary sheds that the administration was putting up at Rs. 12 lakh.

Mr. Punia said that the district administration had been directed to provide transport facility to the Dalit colonies, as some of the girls pursuing Plus-Two expressed fears that they could be targeted when they walked to school, covering a long distance through fields.

Members of the Commission Lata Priyakumar, M. Shivanna, Directors D. Venkatesan (Tamil Nadu), P. Girija (Karnataka), Dharmapuri Collector R. Lilly and Deputy Inspector General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, were present at the press conference.

Former IAS officer and leader of the Samuga Samathuva Padai R. Sivakami attended the press conference as a journalist. She said atrocities on Dalits prevailed across the district and the government and the district administration had failed to control these. The Commission should take action against the State Government and recommend its dismissal. She also said a lot of Panchami lands were yet to be retrieved from land grabbers. Each household in the three Dalit colonies should be given a compensation of Rs. 25 lakh.