CHENNAI: The violence which out broke in Ponparappi falling under the Chidambaram constituency on the day of Lok Sabha elections (April 18), was ‘a pre-conceived murderous attack on Dalits to disrupt the polling process’, claimed a 10-member fact-finding team, headed by C Lakshmanan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS).
With political parties continuing to pass the buck, the team had taken up the study to understand what had transpired between the two communities - Vanniyars and Dalits - that led to the violence. Women, men, youth and police officials of Ponparappi, belonging to both castes, were the main respondents.
In the village that has over 1,000 Vanniyar families and 300 Dalit families, Dalits had to venture into the ‘Vanniyars’ area’ for MGNREGA and Swachh Bharat schemes while it was not the case vice versa, the study found. In the violence, around 100 Dalit houses were ransacked and 50 Dalits injured. Of them, 15 seriously injured people were in the hospital including a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman whose index finger was broken.
The study said a considerable number of male children had participated in the violence against Dalits. Over 100 people had refrained from voting in the wake of the violence while some Dalit students who passed classes 10 and 12 had not collected their certificates because their schools were situated in a Vanniyar area.
The compensation of Rs 50,000 was given only to a few victims, the report claimed. Listing the charter of demands, the fact-finding committee highlighted the necessity of an exclusive special court under the Prevention of Atrocities Act and for a ration shop in the Dalit area.
“Hindu Munnani functionary Rajasekaran, who is an accused in the killing of Ariyalur Dalit girl Nandini, has played a vital role in this attack too, allege the Dalits of Ponparappi,” the report stated.
While the police filed cases against 24 persons belonging to the PMK and the Hindu Munnani, including Rajasekaran, 25 cases were filed against Dalits in the aftermath of the violence. The FIRs filed against Dalits were ‘counter-FIRs’ to force them into a compromise, the report said.
“Gunaseelan, a victim of atrocities, has been arrested and remanded in judicial custody thereby sabotaging the whole process of complaints against atrocities. The counter-FIRs should be immediately withdrawn and the victims of Ponparappi village have to be protected,” the report stated.
The Dalits were also clearly disadvantaged because of the unpreparedness of the law enforcement agency, according to the report. “A complete lack of sensitivity was displayed by them (police) towards the underlying issues that caused the violence. Many of them took side with the Vanniyars openly mocking at the SCs for playing victimhood,” the report said.
The alleged police inaction was also highlighted by the a fact-finding team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) that was released on May 2. The report sought the Director General of Police to probe police response to the violence.