MADURAI: The mood is sombre and the atmosphere tense at Kuruvithurai village near Samayanallur here, where a communal clash broke out between caste Hindus and Dalits late on Sunday that left nine persons injured and caused damage of about 30 houses.
Now, there are hundreds of police personnel in the village and the neighbourhood, while the people in the Dalit settlement are gathering their belongings to assess the losses in the attack.
On Sunday night, a few caste Hindus entered into a wordy duel with some Dalit youth over playing of songs on loudspeakers while celebrating Pongal. The former were detained at a community hall before handing over to the police. The information about the detention reached other caste Hindus in the neighbourhood who allegedly attacked the Dalit families there, said sources.
There are about 600 caste Hindu families and 150 Dalit households in the village.
“As the attackers came with weapons and logs, we locked ourselves inside a small room in my home, holding even our breaths so as to not make any sound till the police reached,” said P Revathi (42), while recalling the tension-filled moments that she and 10 others, including women and children, endured on Sunday.
Like her, many, including S Deivanai (46), are counting their losses. Deivanai’s house, which she thatched for Rs 20,000 after struggling and saving up money little by little, has endured heavy damage. “We ran away from there when they landed with weapons and returned only hours later, only to find the house damaged after they set it afire. My mother A Nallathangam (60) was attacked as she was running out of the house to escape from them,” said the distraught woman.
While unsettling, the attack is not unusual for the Dalit families here. According to those who spoke to Express about life under the shadow of casteism, oppression is a daily routine in the village. S Neelakumari (36) said members of her community have to wait for a long time at the fair price shop located in the caste Hindu area. They have to wait till the last of the caste Hindus were served and left. Same is the case with other shops, where other communities are given preference over the Dalits, she alleged.
A college-goer who reportedly scored good marks during her academic career, has not left the village to attend internal exams scheduled on Monday out of shock. There are 50 students like her who have not stepped out.
“The caste Hindu youth pass derogatory comments about our community while we wait at the bus stops and travel on government buses,” said a college student on condition of anonymity.
A senior police personnel told Express that the public never brought these issues to their knowledge. To this, the people from the Dalit settlement pointed out that they all were dependent on the caste Hindus for their livelihood, due to which they are forced to keep mum.
Following the clash, about 400 police personnel have been deployed in the neighbourhood.