COIMBATORE: With the caste Hindus not permitting them to use the Corporation burial ground and the private land that they have been using for the last century being retrieved by the present landowners, the Dalits from the Arunthathiyar community in Udayampalayam and Nanjegoundenpudur are in urgent need for a space to bury their dead. There is no end to the caste discrimination they face, even after death.
Though there is a corporation burial ground in MGR Nagar, Nanjegoundenpudur, other castes oppose the interring of deceased from the Scheduled Caste Arunthathiyar community.
Speaking to Express on condition of anonymity, a 62-year-old resident of Harijan Colony said the Arunthathiyars know that any attempt to use the Corporation facility could lead to caste violence. This was so ingrained in the social fabric of the community that there has been very little opposition till now, he added.
Hence, for over a century, the oppressed communities in four colonies, including the Harijan Colony in Udayampalayam and MGR Nagar in Nanjegoundenpudur, have been burying their dead in a private property, measuring around 7.5 cents, that was earmarked for this by the then landowner.
However, they are now facing trouble, as the descendants have been calling on the community to stop burying their dead there. On many occasions, they had stopped burials, the residents alleged.
“Over 100 years ago, the owner of the private property had allowed the Arunthathiyars to bury their dead. But after land prices in the area skyrocketed, his descendants have claimed ownership,” said M Vellingiri, the Town Panchayat councillor between 2001 and 2006 of Chinnavedampatty, before it was brought within the Coimbatore Corporation limits. The case was in court, he added.
The question as to why the Arunthathiyars have to rely on the benevolence of the private land owner remains unanswered.
Any attempt by Arunthathiyars to bury their dead in the Corporation graveyard could lead to retaliatory action from caste Hindus in the area, said Vellingiri.
Many others, including a 30-year-old resident of Nanjegoundenpudur, said that the Corporation burial ground must be opened to their community as well, with assurance from police and district administration that tensions would be prevented from escalating into clashes.
“We have been discriminated against for so long that such practices have become a part of life. We are not even allowed to enter the local Amman temple; we must stand outside and offer prayers,” he said.
However, local councillor V Ramamoorthy from the CPI (M) claimed that none had stopped the Arunthathiyars from burying their dead in the Corporation cemetery. “They have been burying their dead in the disputed land for more than 100 years on their own accord. There is no opposition to use of the Corporation site by them,” he said.
When asked, Coimbatore Corporation Mayor P Rajkumar said he was unaware of the issue and would look into it before taking appropriate action and ensure that such practices of untouchability are stopped.