MADURAI: Not a single day passes without harassment or torture for a dalit joint family residing in Ilangiyenthal as a caste Hindu group has made it a habit to target them every day in some way or the other.
Almost in an ostracized state, the oppressed family is not even able to use the land near their house. M Andi (65), a member of a dalit community, works as a ‘generational undertaker’ (involved in the job of carrying the corpse) at Ilangiyenthal. He was living with his relatives in the village that has a concentration of 80 families belonging to a particular Caste-Hindu community.
“My ancestors were brought here for the job of undertaker and I also continued their work that is to tom-tom and announce information about rituals, functions and even thefts that occurred in the houses of caste Hindus. I have seven children, including two daughters, My five sons did not want to continue the family job and are engaged in different menial jobs to win their daily bread. All of them have settled in the village, where I have a patta land,” said Andi.
After Ilangiyenthal was announced a SC Panchayat, Chinthammal, wife of Andi, contested the civic polls twice unsuccessfully incurring the wrath of the caste Hindus. “The Caste-Hindus did not like our development and in last elections especially, they resorted to various means to ensure the defeat of Chinthammal, said A Nondi Samy, Andi’s eldest son.
Upset over the rude behaviour of the dominant caste members, Andi quit the job of the ‘village’ undertaker and ‘tom-toming’ too.
This compounded pains and perils for the family and my father also struggled to make both ends meet without a proper job, said Nondi Samy. The level of harassment started intensifying as a Caste Hindu family encroached a portion of their land and started dumping garbage there. Though Andi and his family members confronted the caste Hindu family several times, the response was vehement abuse in the name of caste.
Only after the intervention of the Block Development Officer (BDO) the dumping act stopped, pointed out D Kalyani (30), a daughter-in-law of Andi.
This was not a stray incident, as the dalit family could neither fell a withered tree in front of their house nor were allowed to park their vehicle in front of their houses. Recently, when they tried to level a part of their land to erect a thatched structure, a group of caste-Hindus rushed to the spot and stopped their work, relatives of Andi said.
“At that time, only me and other women members were there. When a caste-Hindu woman slapped me, another congratulated and offered a chocolate to her. We also get death threats and some persons armed with sickles have intimidated us on a few occasions in the past,” revealed Kalyani. In fact, the dalit family members have been prohibited from using the common path and have been forced to use a private land to reach the main road.
In a symbolic act of ostracism, locals this year did not receive the village tax collected for the annual festival of a common temple, claimed N Umadevi (36).
Even kids of the family are not spared of this harassment, as caste-Hindu children would abuse them.
After all these, the family fears that the Caste-Hindus were now out to expel them from the village. “We even fear for our life as we are a minority in the hamlet,” they said. Complaints to Othakadai police failed to evoke any response from them. Even after petitions to CM cell, the district administration and human rights committee, no firm action has been taken against the offenders, said the family.
Collector L Subramanian said that he would order appropriate action.