A week after a Dalit Panchayat president in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district was stopped from hoisting the national flag on Independence day, another Dalit woman Panchayat chief in Coimbatore has alleged that she faces caste-based discrimination in the village.
V Saridha, president of J Krishnapuram Panchayat in Coimbatore, said that she was facing problems due to her caste since she was elected as Panchayat chief.
“P Balasubramaniam, a Caste Hindu, has been hurling casteist slurs at me whenever I passed by their localities,” said Saridha, who was backed by the DMK. He and his aides have been preventing her from discharging her duties, she alleged.
Saridha said that she has been tolerating the casteist abuses to maintain harmony in the village. “But recently, he came to the Panchayat office and threatened me and the office sweeper that I shouldn’t sit in the chair whenever he visits the office,” she said.
She said Balasubramaniam doesn’t behave this way when other Panchayat functionaries, who are Caste Hindus, are in the office. Moreover, she alleged that none of her colleagues in the village stood by her.
Based on her complaint, Coimbatore police have registered a case against the accused under sections 3(1)(m) (intimidating a member of SC who is a chairperson of a panchayat), 3(1)(r) (intentionally insulting with intent to humiliate a member of an SC in any place of within public view), and 3(1)(s) (abusing a member of SC by caste name in any place within public view) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. An investigation is on into this matter.
Superintendent of Police Ara Arularasu said that the panchayat leader’s complaint might be politically motivated since Balasubramaniam has no role in the panchayat office. However, sources in the Panchayat office told The Federal that Balasubramaniam had been constantly abusing her and that police might be taking a lenient view since he was an AIADMK man.
“Earlier, Balasubramaniam was with the DMK. The AIADMK started backing him after a Dalit woman was made the panchayat president against the wishes of a few DMK locals. Since he’s also from a dominant caste in the western region to which most of the senior ministers belong to, the police may not take further action against him,” said a panchayat worker.
This is not the sole incident where Dalit and tribal panchayat leaders were denied their rights.
V Amrutham (60), a Dalit panchayat president of the Athupakam village in Tiruvallur district, was not allowed to hoist the national flag on Independence day.
“Not being allowed to hoist the national flag was just the recent incident. Earlier, I was not even allowed to enter the panchayat office and I did not even have the office keys. I was repeatedly threatened and abused,” Amrutham said. “I vowed to serve the people in my village, but I could not do it only because I was a Dalit.”
Though she had not filed a formal complaint, the State Human Rights Commission had sought a reply from the District Collector. On August 20, Amrutham hoisted the national flag at the panchayat office in front of District collector Mageshwari Ravikumar, said SP P Arvindhan.