Villupuram police on Friday arrested seven people for allegedly lynching a Dalit youth to death. The incident took place on the afternoon of February 12 when 24-year-old R Sakthivel, a resident of Karai Village, had allegedly stopped by at S Pudhur village to defecate.
A resident of the village who had been working nearby alleged that Sakthivel had tried to flash her. Soon a mob of villagers, including her husband K Raja, gathered, tied Sakthivel to a tree and began lynching him even when he tried denying the allegations.
The arrested group of people who belong to the powerful Vanniyar OBC community, includes 3 women, and are now lodged at Cuddalore Central jail. Sakthivel's family alleges that this was a caste murder and that police inaction was also a reason for Sakthivel's death.
Speaking to TNM, Lalitha, coordinator of Villupuram based NGO Social Awareness Society for Youths, says, “The police should have immediately dispersed the group assuring action. The group had assaulted him in front of the police. He may have survived had he been admitted to the hospital on time.”
According to Sakthivel's sister Theivannaih, he was on his way back to work at the petrol bunk after lunch and was carrying his Aadhaar card since he was asked to bring it for some verification process at work.
“His bike had almost run out of petrol and when he called his sister, he said he felt some discomfort in his stomach and would defecate nearby,” shares Lalitha.
“Sakthivel was wearing pants and so he had to remove them completely in order to defecate. After he had cleaned up and before he wore his pants is when the woman had seen him and perhaps mistook his intent,” Lalitha adds.
Lalitha further adds that when those present found out that Sakthivel was a Dalit, from his Aadhaar and after questioning him, they began lynching him mercilessly. “They had asked him where he came from, whose son he was and this was when they turned violent. Had he been someone from their Vanniyar community they might have let him off with a warning,” Lalitha adds.
She further informs us that such incidents of violence based on caste are a common occurrence in Villupuram area.
‘Only because he was a Dalit’
Periyathatchur Sub Inspector K Vinothraj, Sakthivel's sister and his parents, soon arrived on spot following which Sakthivel was carried back home. A brutally beaten Sakthivel succumbed to his injuries on the same day. “He had apparently died on the way. When 108 ambulance was called, they informed the family that he was already dead,” Lalitha adds.
Lalitha alleges that Sakthivel’s Dalit identity was the only reason why the group of people from Vanniyar caste had turned violent with him and also why the police handled the matter with negligence.
“His sister had rushed there first along with her toddler and she was also physically assaulted by the villagers. Only when they found out that he was from Karai colony, did they begin beating him up badly,” she alleges.
While the police arrested Gowri and Raja on Thursday based on a complaint filed by Thevainnai, the other 5 who were part of the mob were arrested only on Friday, after the relatives demanded proper action. All 7 have been booked under section 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 294 (B) (obscene acts and songs) 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 3 (2)(v) of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Police say both the caste murder angle and allegations by the woman will be investigated.
The victim’s family has been granted a compensation of Rs 4.12 lakh by the Collector.
Lalitha, on the other hand, puts forward two main demands. “We want the department to initiate inquiry against the sub inspector and also file a complaint against him on the Section 4 of the SC/ST Act. The police should also provide protection to the deceased’s family,” she says adding “Such incident are a common occurrence in Villupuram. Inspite of a rule being in place that when such incidents occur, the Superintend of Police and the Collector will have to visit the spot, no one has been there yet.”