CHENNAI: Dalit activists who champion the cause of human rights are becoming easy targets of caste Hindu groups, if a study conducted by Evidence, a city-based NGO, is anything to go by.
The NGO claimed that as many as 25 Dalit human rights activists in the State were killed in the last one year (July 2016 - June 2017).
According to Evidence founder A Kathir, among others, those who conduct inter-caste marriages were being targeted by caste Hindu groups.
Recalling an incident in Madurai last year, he said, one Muthumanickam was murdered for conducting an inter-caste marriage.“In another incident this year, one Subramanian hailing from Vellore was killed for fighting for land rights.”
The 25 killings apart, one Kathir alias Kathiresan was hacked to death by a 15-member gang of caste Hindus in Thiruppainjeeli in Tiruchy on Saturday. His body was mutilated with bruises on his face.
Before killing him, Kathiresan was disrobed and tortured in public near Thiruppainjeeli bus stop. He was also verbally abused based on his caste, he alleged.
Kathiresan was attacked because he married a caste Hindu girl. He was also fighting for Dalits through political activism, Kathir claimed. Though 15 people were involved in the murder, only three have been arrested by Manachanallur police so far.Kathir alleged that efforts to uplift the Dalit community and widespread Dalit politics that is being played out, enraged caste Hindus, which prompted them to resort to such inhuman acts.Kathir demanded that the government set up a Human Rights Defenders Protection Act in order to safeguard the lives of activists.
He claimed that a desk set up by the National Human Rights Commission in 2010 to protect the interests of human rights defenders was almost dysfunctional. In contrast, in countries like Norway and the United Kingdom, a lot of efforts were being made to protect human rights defenders.Kathir added that cases registered under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act were being investigated by police inspectors or even constables whilst the Act stipulates that the probe be conducted by an officer of Deputy Superintendent of Police rank.He appealed to the government to not just view Dalit issues from a civil and political prism, but also from a socio-economic perspective.