CHENNAI: The simmering caste tensions in the Dr Ambedkar Government Law College hostel came out in the open when a Dalit student’s bike was set ablaze early morning Thursday, allegedly by a student gang from caste Hindus.
While the college management maintained it suspected the hands of outside elements, Dalit students told Express that it was an extension of the tension between the two groups that worsened in the past three months. There were even demands for separate plates for caste Hindu students at the college hostel, which was rejected.
According to K Tamilalagan whose bike was set afire, he was returning to the hostel along with his friend on Wednesday night when the other group picked on them. “They were sitting on the corridor drinking. As we were walking in, they passed snide remarks on us,” recalled Tamilalagan, who had filed an internal complaint on the twin plates issue.
Angry stares were exchanged between the two groups, but it did not lead to any brawl and Tamilalagan went to his room at around 11 pm. “Three hours later, I was shocked to find that my bike was on fire,” he said, blaming the other group for it. He has also filed a police complaint stating this. This, claimed Dalit students whom Express spoke to, was not a stray incident. Earlier, a section of caste Hindu students had reportedly filed a petition to the college principal, K Murugadoss, demanding permission to use separate plates, complaining that the common plates were not cleaned properly.
“Even after a worker was appointed to clean the plates, they continued to press their demand for separate plates after which the final year students intervened,” a student said.
“However, the peace was short lived after a caste Hindu student abused a dalit student along caste lines which led to a brawl,” said Tamilalagan. College authorities pacified the warring groups which was partly successful as the students agreed not to fight again as their semester exams were approaching.
However, while there were no major incidents, there was no dearth of tense moments in the campus. Along the hostel corridors, students from both sections exchanged cold and contemptuous stares. “Posters of Dr BR Ambedkar stuck in front of rooms of Dalit students would be torn down overnight,” Ilavarasan, another student, told Express.When contacted, the college principal, K Murugadoss admitted there was tension along caste lines in the hostel.