MADURAI: Khap panchayat by Ramesh Babu, a caste Hindu, has ostracized a family from Arunthathiyar community for questioning his authority at Kattunayakanpatty village near Bodi in Theni district.
The last six months for Paramasivam, his wife Lakshmi and their three children who were forced to live in a makeshift hut in a bushy area by the village tank bunds have been a nightmare. “We have been spending sleepless nights for months fearing for our lives. Snakes and other reptiles often enter our house at night. My children refused to sleep in the house. They are now at my father’s place,” said Paramasivam.
Though nearly 224 Arunthathiyar families live in the village, they refused to give a house on rent to the couple. They are scared of Ramesh Babu’s wrath. He is also the vice president of Theni panchayat union.
“Twice I paid advance to my community members to rent a house, but they returned the money after Ramesh Babu threatened them,” claimed Lakshmi.
As the khap panchayat passed an order directing the villagers not to speak to the couple; not to allow them to walk on the village roads or collect water from public taps; and sell grocery to them, the couple has
been struggling for drinking water.
“We have to face this hardship because my husband dared to question Ramesh for misusing the panchayat for his personal gain. Though the panchayat president Panthanam belongs to our community, he keeps silence,” she said.
After the couple petitioned the district police repeatedly, police registered an FIR against Ramesh Babu under the SC/ST Act in February 2015, but so far they haven’t arrested him, said A Kathir, executive director, Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO.
“Everything happens in the village as ordered by the khap panchayat,” said Kathir, adding that Evidence had sent a report to the DGP over the incident.
When Express contacted a senior police officer, he denied there were khap panchayats in the village.
“Two caste Hindus tried to use Dalits for their personal reasons. We have found it was a mistake of fact and closed the case. The report has been sent to the collector,” he claimed.
Kathir on the other hand claims, “Without asking the Dalit couple, how is it possible for the police to close the case as a mistake of fact? Nowadays Theni police close cases booked under the SC/ST Act as a mistake of fact.”