MADURAI: Thirteen persons serving a life sentence for killing six Dalits way back in 1997, were released from prison for ‘good conduct’.
Those murdered included Melavalavu panchayat president Murugesan. The convicts were released from the Madurai Central Prison only a few days ago, in accordance with the MGR birth centenary celebrations.
Dalit activists are up in arms against the government for amending regulations, which made their release possible.
“This release shows that anyone can get away after being involved caste massacre, provided they belong to a dominant caste,” says VCK spokesperson Vanni Arasu.
The GO 687 allows the release of prisoners who have served more than 10 years, and with a record of good conduct.
“This GO clearly states that a person cannot be released if he is considered to be a threat to the society or locality,” points out Vanni Arasu. As a result, since 2008, no such persons were released on good conduct.
“Now, however, the government has amended the GO to remove societal threat clause, which is condemnable,” alleges Arasu.
“Till date, there is caste tension in the area over the murders. The release of these convicts will only worsen the situation. The release is a challenge to the Constitution. How can the State release such persons, who have challenged the State itself,” asks Arasu.
Kathir, the founder of Evidence NGO, demanded that the government must come out with a proper policy or law on premature releases.
“This release renders the long legal battles fought by affected families meaningless.” Speaking to Express, a relative of the slain panchayat leader claimed the family was still receiving threats.
Another family member of the deceased said they found out about the release from news reports. “We are very upset with the State’s decision. It shows all governments will only favour dominant castes. We are left behind, even for survival.” Melur MLA Periyapullan (a) Selvam, who spoke in the Assembly for the release of the convicts, refused to comment on the issue.
What happened in 1997?
The incident happened on June 30, 1997. Murugesan, the president of Melavalavu Panchayat was travelling in a government bus with five others, including the panchayat vice president Mookan.
All of them were Dalits. The bus was blocked on the road, and the six of them were hacked to death in broad daylight.
Melavalavu panchayat president Murugesan was beheaded
His head was flung into a well, half a kilometre away from the murder scene.
The murder, committed by caste Hindus who outnumber Dalits in the region, was allegedly to protest the conversion of the panchayat into a reserved segment.
The murders happened four months after Murugesan was elected.