THOOTHUKUDI: The Thoothukudi district administration has planned to hold a peace meeting with all stakeholders on February 17 and has stepped up security at Manakkarai village after members of a Scheduled Caste community (Pallars) sought a separate road through agricultural fields, saying caste Hindus are preventing them from accessing a public road for funeral processions.
The issue flared up on February 11 when Nadar community members of Naduvakurichi hamlet allegedly stopped SC members from carrying the body of Mookan (73) through their village to the cremation ground. The road to the crematorium used by SC members passes through Naduvakurichi, sources said.
Barred from using the road, SC members were being forced to walk through muddy paddy fields for a km to take their dead for cremation, sources said. To put an end to their woes, Pallar community members have now asked the administration to build a separate road through agricultural fields.
“Over 200 SC families live in Keezhur area of the Manakkarai panchayat. The SC burial ground is located 3km away from the village along the banks of Thamirabarani. The route passes through paddy fields and Naduvakurichi,” sources said.
M Paramasivan (45), a teacher from the SC community, said the community has been using the burial ground for a long time. “Nadar families, however, are against carrying out funeral processions of Pallar families through Naduvakurichi. Because of this, dead bodies have to be taken on a route through paddy fields for a km to skip Nadar homes. Despite this, Pallars have to cross a few Nadar houses on the way to the burial ground,” he said.
Arumugam, a resident, said when his wife died a few years ago, he had to take her body to Sinthupoonthurai in Tirunelveli for burial, as the local caste Hindus objected to holding funeral procession through the public road despite multiple requests. “I wanted to take her body through the road since she died at a young age and it is our tradition to perform last rites at the native soil on the river banks,” he said.
An elderly man recalled that SC members, because of denial of access to roads, had to wade through a canal carrying their dead before a bridge was constructed. “During rainy seasons, we had to walk through hip-deep soil on paddy fields,” he said. Thangaraj, a former village head of SC families, said there is no peace even after death. “It is heart-wrenching that we cannot even offer a decent funeral to our beloved ones,” he said.
A Nadar man said they oppose the funeral processions of Pallars as the community throws flowers inside their houses during processions and makes casteist remarks. Speaking to TNIE, district collector Dr K Senthil Raj said a team of officials headed by sub-collector Gaurav Kumar had visited the village.
“He held inquiries about the caste issue with the panchayat president and village leaders. A peace committee meeting with all stakeholders has been scheduled on February 17. Srivaikuntam tahsildar, BDO and other officials have been instructed to keep strict vigil to avoid such issues,” he said.
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