‘Not political rivalry but caste enmity behind Dalits’ murder near Arakkonam’

Youth not drunk, says independent fact-finding team

An independent fact-finding team led by retired IAS officer P. Sivakami that examined the recent murder of two Dalit youths near Arakkonam ruled out “political rivalry” behind the crime but concluded that it was a result of a simmering “caste enmity” between the Scheduled Castes and Vanniyars. At the same time, the team said that there was no truth in the allegation that the youth were drunk.

“As per the post-mortem [report] they were not drunk. It is wrong to come to the conclusion that they were drunk because broken bottles were found where the crime took place,” Ms Sivakami, accompanied by advocate A. Rajini, human rights activists Kalpana Sathish and Burely Walter told reporters in Chennai on Tuesday.

‘Not affiliated’

“The dispute that led to the murder had nothing to do with election or politics. Except one AIADMK sympathiser, the others are not affiliated to any political party. There was [however] a simmering enmity between Dalits and the caste Hindus in the area,” she said. (The accused belonged to the Vanniyar community)

The fact-finding team members said the problem started after a Dalit youth Ayyappan mistakenly addressed another person in a “disrespectful” manner.

“He had used the [Tamil] word ‘dei” assuming that it was his friend Adityan. But the caste Hindu boy entered into a fight with Ayyappan and people intervened and pacified them,” the team said in its findings.

But subsequent peace meeting ended in violence as caste Hindus, numbering 20, attacked the Dalit youths with weapons. Two Dalit youths were killed and another three were severely injured.

“There is a deep-rooted prejudice against Dalits and they are not allowed to participate in temple festivals. Grazing land, lake and agriculture lands are in the control of caste Hindus,” the team said. Regarding Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan’s allegations that the youths — Arjunan, 26, from Soghanur village and Suriya, 26, from Sembedu village — were murdered because they campaigned for the ‘pot’ symbol of his party, Ms. Sivakami said he would have said so to gain political advantage.

Reiterating that separate panchayats for Dalits alone would ensure development for them, the team members said though Dalits were in adequate numbers, they forced to be part of a panchayat run by caste Hindus.

Urging the government to give priority to Dalits in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the team members said caste Hindu women wearing expensive jewellery were getting jobs under the scheme. The team recommended establishing separate ration shops and nutritious meal centres for Dalit hamlets.

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