Kallars are paying the price for a century-old crime that was never committed

Kallar Thevar caste Tamil Nadu
Even though the Thevars are regarded as politically influential, the Kallars among them claim it has not helped them erase the stigma attached to them, nor get rid of the casteist slurs and discrimination | Image - Prathap Ravishankar

A couple of years ago, a 24-year-old from Kalappanpatti village in Madurai was picked up by the local police. His father, Mayandi (name changed), was told that the young man was detained on suspicion of robbing a couple of their jewellery while they were returning to the village after attending a marriage ceremony in the town.

The father though claims that his son was held for being a member of the Kallar community.

“My son had gone to the town to purchase agricultural products and was picked up by the police while returning home that night. There were many others who were coming back to the village, but the police picked up only my son. When asked about it, they [the police] called us names and said only Kallars would rob people. The police though didn’t give any evidence,” says Mayandi.

Kallars like Mayandi and his son are among nearly 150 communities across India that were labelled as “criminal tribes” by the British colonial government under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. It was repealed in 1949 and the communities were ‘denotified’ on August 31, 1952.

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