As many as 29 Dalit families have allegedly been ostracised in a village in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district for not withdrawing a case filed against caste-Hindus under the Prevention of Atrocities (against SC/ST) Act.
“We did not know what was happening. The shopkeeper suddenly refused to give us groceries. The milk man who used to visit our houses has not come to our Dalit colony since October 2. We did not even get water from the common taps in the village,” said a woman from a Dalit colony in Ulagam village in Hosur.
It all started two years ago, after a 22-year-old Dalit youth Suriyakumar, belonging to the Adi Dravidar caste from the village, eloped with a 17-year-old minor girl belonging to the Kurumbar community (categorised as most backward) of Maniyangal village in Hosur.
Soon after the incident, while the parents of the girl filed a police complaint against Suriyakumar on the charges of kidnapping and under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the caste-hindus in Ulagam village where Suriyakumar’s family reside, barged into the Dalit colony and assaulted the people there
“We were unaware that Suriyakumar had eloped with a caste-Hindu girl. They barged into our houses and threw everything that was inside and assaulted us,” says another woman.
Based on a complaint from the Dalit people in the village, the police filed a case against as many as 30 caste-Hindus.
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Six months later when the caste-Hindu girl became a major, both the families agreed to her marriage with Suriyakumar, the couple did an inter-caste marriage. The girl’s family then withdrew the case they had filed against Suriyakumar.
But, the Dalits did not withdraw the Prevention of Atrocities (against SC/ST) Act case filed against caste-Hindus in the Ulagam village. The case came up for hearing on October 1.
“They told us many times to withdraw the case. We did not want to withdraw the case because the caste-Hindus were neither the relatives of the girl nor did they belong to the girl’s village. These caste-Hindu men were all from our own village. They assaulted us just because our man eloped with a caste-Hindu girl. They did not want one of us to do an inter-caste marriage,” says T Sethu, a villager.
According to the villagers, the decision to order a social boycott of the 29 Dalit families was taken at the village caste panchayat. “They did not hear our side at all. We are suffering just because we stood up for ourselves,” adds Sethu.
The Dalit families also alleged that casteist slurs are hurled at them whenever they go past the houses of caste-Hindus.
“We don’t intentionally pass by their houses. But, when we went to get groceries and ration products from the ration shop located in a street with a predominantly caste-Hindu population, a few men abused us using our caste name and asked us not to step into the caste-Hindu streets,” says another woman from the Ulagam village.
The village caste panchayat has also ordered that a fine of Rs 5,000 will be collected from people who gives groceries, milk and water to the Dalit people in the village.
When asked about it, District Revenue Officer Gunasekaran said he was not aware of the incident and that an inquiry would be conducted into the matter.