'Dalits can't wear footwear in Salem prison' - The New Indian Express

'Dalits can't wear footwear in Salem prison'

Published: 13th August 2013 09:47 AM

Last Updated: 13th August 2013 09:49 AM

An outfit has claimed that the Dalits are being discriminated against inside the Salem Central Jail. The activists alleged that while Dalits were being denied entry into prison offices wearing footwear, prisoners from the non-Dalit intermediary castes were being pampered by the prison administration.

Condemning the discrimination and demanding an official inquiry into the caste-based discrimination, the Tamilaga Vazhakaringargal Manavar Kootamaippu conducted a protest demonstration here on Monday.

According to Santhiyur Parthiban, state president of the outfit, in Salem Central Jail except non-Dalit prisoners, others, including minorities, were not allowed to wear foot wear inside the prison office. Prisoners of caste-based political party were better treated by the jail authorities, he said. He further to alleges that the Prison Vigilance Police, who should inform higher officials about such practices, were turning a blind eye. He said, the police were tacit supporters of discrimination.

He said denial of entry into a government office amounted to contravention of the law that prohibits anyone being denied entry into a government office with footwear and he added that, Dalit prisoners were only being relegated to isolation cells in the jail. While the cells occupied by Dalit prisoners have no basic amenities like drinking water, non-Dalits were provided better care. Human rights violations abound inside the prison with Dalits being forced to take up harsh work like cooking without being paid for it, he said. When contraband was seized in the prisons, they were being charged, he alleged. In the name of checks, Dalit prisoners were stripped and often put in isolation cells and were subjected to mental torture, he added.

Apart from prisoners, Dalit prison staff were also facing discrimination, he said, and added, recently a woman staff was transferred on the basis of false charges. While others can get whatever they want for money inside the prison, Dalits cannot even have a minute extra during visiting hours with their kin or friends.

Salem Prison Superintendent, however, denied that Dalit prisoners were discriminated and said prisoners were punished equally when they misbehave in the prison. He said, discrimination charges were being made to justify their mistakes. He also denied charges that Dalit prisoners were not allowed to wear footwear in the prison office.

A Sipson, state convenor, Odukkapattor Vidudhalai Munnani, a special invitee to the protest said, as a prisoner himself for years, he knew for sure that discrimination existed in prisons in Tamil Nadu; Salem prison in particular being notorious for such practices. But, more than caste-based discrimination, the Prison Manual is seldom followed, leading to a host of human rights violations against prisoners, he said. Unless intermediary community officials in Salem Prison are transferred there would be no real change in the state of affairs, he said.

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