No peace even after death, Dalits carry bodies via field with police protection in Pudukkottai

"The alternative route is problematic as nearby villagers would restrict us from conducting funeral processions due to the presence of a temple. To avoid problems, we would like to respect their belief systems."
Residents of Mattaiyanpatti carrying the body of a villager through a field
Residents of Mattaiyanpatti carrying the body of a villager through a field Photo | Express

PUDUKKOTTAI: Dalit residents of Mattaiyanpatti village in Pudukkottai are forced to carry mortal remains of their dear ones, through a paddy field paired with police protection, fearing conflict with a group of caste Hindus, who have patta over the land. The group recently blocked the pathway to the Adi Dravidar burial ground in the village, which had been in use for five generations.

On Thursday, hundreds of residents and cadre of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi staged a sit-in protest at the Adi Dravidar burial ground on poramboke land, urging the district administration to lay a proper pathway to the burial ground, to avoid confrontation.

“Before giving free patta in 2007, the administration should have taken cognisance of establishing a pathway. Citing this potential concern, we had been demanding the district administration to build a road on our traditional pathway to the burial ground, for the past three years. Caste Hindu patta holders, in December, suddenly stopped us from entering the field and the situation escalated,” said Siva, a VCK functionary.

A Urumaiah, a villager, said, “We petitioned the administration multiple times in the last six months, but to no avail. Officials should conduct surveys in order to lay a road here.”

“The alternative route is problematic as nearby villagers would restrict us from conducting funeral processions due to the presence of a temple. To avoid problems, we would like to respect their belief systems. We have also urged officials to cancel the patta if that can get the roads laid. Revenue officials have assured us of conducting a peace meeting soon. They also offered us to give police protection to carry the funeral procession if needed,” D Seenu, a protest organiser said,

In response, a revenue department official said, “We respect their traditional beliefs as they have used the path for generations and are taking steps to resolve the issue. As requested, we will conduct a peace meeting to resolve the conflict. We have also appealed them to use the alternative path which is in good condition.”

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