TN: Woman Dalit panchayat chief resigns after casteist slurs

P Rajeshwari of Kalpiravu panchayat in Sivagangai district resigned, and later withdrew it, over non-cooperation from panchayat members, who, she says, abuse her on caste grounds

Rajeshwari accused panchayat vice-president S Nagaraj of threatening her and not allowing her to function.

A woman Dalit Panchayat president in Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu has alleged that she was discriminated against on caste grounds and constantly abused while attempting to discharge her constitutional duties. On Monday morning (November 9), she submitted her resignation citing the obstructions caused by her colleagues in the village panchayat.

She, however, withdrew it later in the day after the Block Development Officer intervened.

“It’s been 11 months since I was elected as the leader of panchayat, but I am not able to work. I never sat on the Panchayat office chair. Every time I talk about the panchayat administration and its work, they (panchayat members) rub it aside citing my caste and abusing me with castiest slurs,” alleged P Rajeshwari, a Dalit and president of Kalpiravu village panchayat in Sivagangai district.

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Rajeshwari accused panchayat vice-president S Nagaraj of threatening her and not allowing her to function.

“Nagaraj was good with me when I got elected unanimously as the president of the panchayat. We were like brothers and sisters. But, I don’t know what changed him in the days to come as he started making the castiest comments on me. Or maybe, I did not realize his attitude in the early days,” she said.

Rajeshwari, who is supposed to be handling the accounts book and the offices under the control of the village panchayat, was neither given the keys to the office nor was she allowed to have a look into the account books.

“I have been asking him (Nagaraj) to provide the accounts book to me, but he never paid heed to me. I even told the panchayat clerk to get all the accounts books and the keys of the halls and other offices under the village panchayat control. But, the clerk also did not cooperate,” she said.

Rajeshwari has submitted her resignation with the block development officer (BDO) at Manamadurai in Sivagangai district and they are inquiring into the matter.

Also read: Dalits, OBCs furious as Kerala gives reservation for economically weak

“I cannot let this happen again and again. Instead of being a puppet and signing all the documents without questioning, I thought it would be more decent to quit,” Rajeshwari said.

Panchayat vice-president Nagaraj said there was no issue between him and the president (Rajeshwari) except the recruitment of people. “We had differences of opinion in recruiting people for the 100 days MGNREGA scheme. Other than that we did not have any problem and I never discriminated against her on caste grounds. In fact, it was me who supported her at the time of election,” Nagaraj said.

Block level officials in the district said that they have received the letter from Rajeshwari and have asked Rajeshwari to withdraw her resignation. “We will solve the differences soon. We want everything to go as per the norms and no violations could be tolerated. Rajeshwari has also accepted our offer,” a block level official said.

Rajeshwari later said she had withdrawn her resignation.

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