After being denied permission by Caste-Hindus to cremate a deceased relative in their village’s common burial ground, dalits in P Subbulapuram village, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu are now barred from walking on a common pathway which is also used by the Caste-Hindus.
A video surfaced on social media, in which a dalit man’s corpse was seen being burnt using petrol as the Caste-Hindus refused to give permission to cremate the body in the common crematorium. According to the villagers, the discrimination practice reached a new high after this incident to the point where they were not even allowed to walk on a common pathway.
“The pathway leads to the neighboring village Sukkalapati. Since it is in between a Caste-Hindu’s land, he has built up an untouchability wall, barring us from crossing the land,” says Chellakannu, Joint Secretary of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front.
“If we walk through the pathway, we can reach the Sukkalapati village in less than 100 meters, but now, we have to travel over a kilometer to reach the village,” claims Chellakannu.
Dalit villagers to whom The Federal spoke to also said that they are now discriminated on another level as they are not allowed to purchase groceries in the shops in the village. “The Caste-Hindu leaders have brought in restrictions regarding selling the groceries to us. They have also warned the other Caste-Hindus that they will impose a fine of ₹1,000 if they speak to us,” says Muthu, a villager.
They did not stop there. The dalits who have been farming in the lands of the Caste-Hindus were also asked to stay away from the land. “It all erupted after the video surfaced and the issue of separate crematorium and burial ground got blown up,” says Vinoth.
After the discrimination issue became worse, the district administration called for a peace meeting on Thursday (September 5). However, during the peace meeting, according to the villagers who participated in the meeting, the district administration too was seen encouraging caste discrimination by allocating a separate burial ground and crematorium for the dalits in the village.
“However, we did not accept a separate burial ground for dalits. We demanded entry into the common burial ground and crematorium where the Caste-Hindus are also buried and cremated,” says Vinoth.
In the meeting headed by the District Revenue Officer P Selvaraj, the dalits who participated in the peace meeting refused to accept a separate burial ground and have demanded entry into the same area.