As TN gears up to vote, poll boycott decisions in the Vengaivayals of the state fail to draw attention

People who are reeling under caste discrimination and atrocities make up 90 percent of the population who have announced that they will not head to the polling booths to cast their votes
Banner announcing the Lok Sabha poll boycott by Dalits in Vengaivayal, Pudukkottai over the delay in justice.
Banner announcing the Lok Sabha poll boycott by Dalits in Vengaivayal, Pudukkottai over the delay in justice.Express Photo

Time was when people announcing boycott of polls used to gain the attention of the media thereby resulting in leaders ending up assuaging the frayed tempers of the voters.

Not anymore though.

This time around, SOS calls of villagers through poll boycott announcements have been falling on deaf ears.

People who are reeling under caste discrimination and atrocities make up 90 percent of the population who have announced that they will not head to the polling booths to cast their votes as their demands remains unheard and unfulfilled.

Tamil Nadu goes to the polls in the first phase -- this Lok Sabha election's biggest phase with voting in 102 constituencies spread across 21 states -- on April 19.

Remember Vengaivayal?

Vengaivayal is the village in Pudukottai district where in December, 2022 human faeces were found inside an overhead water tank supplying water to the Dalit population in the village. Over 15 months later, the people of the village have announced a poll boycott since no action was taken against the miscreants who were involved in the caste atrocity.

The worst is that the victims were treated like the accused by the police and the authorities.

"We could not even travel by bus to another village to attend a function as the police suspect that we're gong to participate in a protest somewhere. Our relatives are unable to enter the village as strict police scrutiny continues. To hold a function, we have to get the permission of the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and Superintendent of Police (SP. We're boycotting the Lok Sabha elections as we don't have any other option left," a Dalit resident of Vengaivayal was quoted as saying in a report.

Banner announcing the Lok Sabha poll boycott by Dalits in Vengaivayal, Pudukkottai over the delay in justice.
No 'Munnetram' for Dalits in Dravida land: Revisiting Vengaivayal case after 100 days

Investigation into the Vengaivayal incident cannot go on perpetually and has to be completed by July 3, said the Madras High Court on Tuesday. While dealing with a PIL seeking speedy probe into the issue, the court also questioned "Why is it taking so long to complete the probe."

There are several Vengaivayals across the state, points out social activist and writer Shalin Maria Lawrence.

Dalits in several villages across the state exist like slaves without basic amenities including potable drinking water, public toilets and a place to bury their dear ones.

From Vengaivayal to Radhapuram in Tirunelveli district to Thideer Nagar at Otteri in the state capital, all such places have announced a poll boycott, Shalin said.

In Chennai alone, people in Thideer Nagar, Kannappan Thidal, Manali, Ennore and Parandur among other places have announced poll boycott.

Usually, in these instances political leaders visited such villages or areas and tried to pacify the people by listening to their grievances. This time around, political parties have not paid any heed to the boycott calls, Shalin told The New Indian Express.

The oppressed people in the state are disgruntled. They say the ruling DMK has failed to address their problems.

People are lately losing confidence even in Dalit outfits like Thol Thirumavalavan's VCK, an ally of the DMK. Shalin pointed out that in the 2019 elections, Thirumavalavan managed to win by a narrow margin of 3,000 votes.

The vacuum created by the callousness of Dravidian political parties could give space for the BJP to exploit the situation. This is a huge setback to democracy, she noted.

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