Dalits in TN lower their dead from bridge as caste Hindus deny access to path
A widely-circulated video showing dalits of Narayanapuram Colony near Vaniyambadi in Vellore district, dropping their dead from a bridge to the burial ground after being denied access to the road leading up to the site, has yet again exposed the blatant and archaic practice of caste-based discrimination in the interior parts of Tamil Nadu.
Speaking to The Federal, P Jayakumar, a villager in Vaniyambadi said that they have a burial ground inside the village, which is exclusively used by vanniyars (a most backward community). “But dalits are not allowed to enter the burial ground where vanniyars are buried,” Jayakumar said.
The dalits have another burial ground which is rendered useless during the monsoon as it becomes slushy. During such a situation, another alternative burial site for the dalits is the banks of a tributary of Palar river. But the burial site can be reached only by walking through a farmland owned by a non-dalit person. As the owners of these farmlands have barred the dalits from carrying their dead through this way, a dead body has to be lowered from a 20-feet high bridge near the site before the burial.
The video in question, which went viral on social media on Wednesday (August 21) showed the corpse being tied to a rope and lowered from the bridge. Those standing below the bridge were seen receiving the body and carrying it to the river bank for burial.
According to sources, C Kuppan (45) from Narayanapuram colony died in an accident early this week. Jayakumar said that the dalits couldn’t bury his body in their usual burial ground due to rains over the past few days, and had to bury it near Palar river.
On Monday (August 19) though, when the villagers took the body of the man to bury him on the shore of the river (their back up location), they found that the path to the shores on the bridge had been blocked.
It turned out that the Hindus residing in that village had blocked the path on the bridge since they didn’t approve of dalits using their farmland to reach the shore. This led to the relatives of the deceased shifting the body by lowering it from the 20-feet-high bridge using a rope.
“It was the farmland owner who blocked the pathway, restricting the dalits from entering the village,” Jayakumar said.
This kind of discrimination is not seen solely with regard to burial grounds. When The Federal spoke to other villagers, they found that the dalits in the village were not allowed to enter streets where Vanniyars reside.
“They won’t let us enter their streets and they too won’t enter our streets. Even the ration shop that was set up in our street was shifted to their street as they didn’t want to walk in the streets we live in,” said M Arumugam, a daily wage worker in the village.
“They also shifted the bus stop in our locality to their area, so we have to walk at least one kilometer to get there. There was only one bus that would come frequently to our village. After the Hindus in the street picked a fight and created a ruckus for stopping in our street, the bus stop was shifted to their street,” Arumugam added.
Another villager, M Premkumar said that the Hindus have blocked the entrance to the middle school in the area. “Since the school had only one entrance which was in our street, the Hindus fought with the school administration and changed the main entrance to the other side. They have also blocked the entrance that was in our street,” Premkumar said.
When asked about this issue, Vellore district collector A Shanmugasundaram said that he would take action regarding this.