Saturday turned out to be a historic day for dalits of V Muthulingapuram in the district as they were allowed to use a common water tank, which till now was a no-entry zone for them.
Caste Hindus relented after a joint meeting convened by tahsildar Mangalanathan in the presence of police officials, attended by all stake holders - members of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), representatives of Dalit and caste Hindu communities - at the panchayat office.
Mangalanathan said that it was decided at the meeting that the village tank was a common utility for all residents of the village and it could not be reserved for members of any community or religion.
He said since the tank was public facility, Dalits were entitled to use it and urged members of caste Hindus to sign an agreement facilitating the same. Though, caste Hindus initially strongly objected to the plan of the tahsildar, later they relented and an agreement was signed.
However, some members of the Caste Hindus, who were unhappy with the agreement, reportedly issued veiled threats to the dalits, warning them of dire consequences if they step into the tank, sources said. But officials said they assured protection to the Dalits over any possible backlash.
According to P Ganesh Pandi, a villager, around 30 Dalit families lived in the hamlet. “A common tank was built in the locality at a cost of `1.50 lakh from the panchayat union funds of 2012-13 seven months ago. However, since its construction, only caste Hindus were allowed to use it. Whenever the Dalits tried to access it, they were warned by caste Hindus and the water supply was cut,” Ganesh alleged. This triggered a spat in the village, Ganesh added.
An investigation carried out by members of the (TNUEF) revealed that untouchability prevailed in the village and the ban on use of water tank was one among the issues. Seeking a solution, (TNUEF) members petitioned the district officials requesting to initiate appropriate action to secure the due right for the dalits.