Barely a day after a shocking video of a group of men lowering a dead body from a bridge in Tamil Nadu went viral, the Vellore district administration has allotted half an acre of land to the Dalit community in the area to be used as a resting place for their dead.
Speaking to TNM, Tirupattur Sub-collector Priyanka said that the district administration has allotted half an acre of poramboke (common) land on Thursday as burial and cremation ground for those from the Dalit community.
“We conducted an inquiry with people from the Dalit community and the land owners who had allegedly blocked the path to the riverbed. On Saturday, there was no issue or any sort of confrontation between the owners of the land and the men who were carrying the body,” she said.
Priyanka said, “Their request was that they needed a separate cremation ground. They could have told us on Saturday itself and we would have allocated immediately since we give top priority to burial and cremation grounds. But on Saturday, no altercations of any sort happened, and hence the news did not reach us.”
While Vijay, the dead man’s nephew, told TNM that no altercations had taken place on Saturday, he added that there have been such incidents in the past.
“In our community, we cremate the eldest son and bury all others when they die. When the bridge was new, around 10 years ago or more, the elders from our community tried taking a dead body to the other side of the river to cremate, and at that time, some altercations happened between our elders and the land-owners there. Since then, our community people have always lowered the dead bodies from the middle of the bridge when the need to cremate arises,” he said.
He further pointed out that though the bridge ends on government land, they have to cross private patta land owned by caste-Hindus to access the riverbank.
Vijay also confirmed that a piece of land has been allotted to their community after the video went viral.
The incident happened in Natrampalli, around 20 kilometres from Vaniyambadi in Vellore district on Saturday. A 55-year-old Dalit man named Kuppan had an unnatural death and the people from his community wanted to cremate him on the riverbank, the path to which goes through private patta land. The video of the men lowering the dead body from the top of the bridge went viral on social media, sparking outrage about the lack of dignity in the death of people from the Dalit community.
Speaking about why they made the video, Vijay said, “We wanted to emphasise that we need a separate area to conduct the last rites. The burial ground we had earlier was quite full and now when we dig beyond two feet, there is only rock. When we bury like that, dogs dig into the ground and create a mess. Therefore, we made the video and circulated it.”