Husband of Dalit panchayat president attacked brutally in Arakkonam in TN

“No one has done as much development work as us in the village, which irked them, and they attacked my husband. I have seen so much pain in the past five months,” Panchayat President Geetha said.
Moorthy, husband of TN Dalit panchayat president, who was attacked
Moorthy, husband of TN Dalit panchayat president, who was attacked
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The husband of a Dalit woman panchayat president in Arakkonam of Ranipet was brutally attacked by a group of people from the Vanniyar community, a Most Backward Class (MBC) community, on the night of April 1. The 52-year-old man was allegedly chased throughout the village and beaten up by a gang of seven persons, according to his family members. This is reportedly not the first time he was attacked — he had allegedly been a victim of assault due to his caste twice in the past five months, after his wife took charge as the president of the panchayat.

Geetha (42) is the panchayat president of Vedal panchayat in Arakkonam, where the president’s seat is reserved for SC Women. Her husband, Moorthy, assists her in her work. Both of them belong to the Adi Dravidar community. “Majority of the people in the village belong to Vanniyar caste. It is after nearly 60 years that a person from our community becomes the president here. No one has done as much development work as us in the village, which irked them, and they attacked my husband. I have seen so much pain in the past five months,” says Geetha. She adds that they were targetted because of their caste and were abused using casteist slurs before and during the attack.

Speaking to TNM, their son, Saravanan (23), said that this was not the first time Moorthy was attacked. “He was slapped once during an event at ration shop; a union councillor’s husband Haridas came to attack him with a knife last month, when my father was involved in a road work. On both these instances, we filed complaints, but no action was taken by the police. If it were taken, he wouldn’t have been at the hospital right now,” Saravanan says. He adds that a majority of the villagers are Vanniyars and most of those opposing them are from the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) party.

Geetha said that one Rajagopalan had been asking for permission to set up a hen farm at the village, but he was not ready to pay the required fee to the panchayat. This had led to a tiff between them. “On the night of April 1, Rajagopalan, along with six persons, came to the house and beat me. They started beating my husband with hammer, and a sugarcane, and they hit him with a big rock on his chest, too,” she alleges, adding that she has filed a complaint with the police in the regard.

“The gang had beaten my father so much with the hammer that at one point, the head of the hammer broke from its handle. Even then they did not leave him. My mother had tried to help by pulling him into a small pooja room. But the attackers broke the door open and beat him. He somehow escaped and started seeking help on the street. None but two people came forward. They were also beaten and that scared the others. My father was running away to escape them but they followed him throughout. At a point, he even collapsed and fell unconscious, but the gang did not relent. A few people, including a child, had fallen on their feet asking to leave my father away but they did not,” Saravanan says. “There was one person who intervened and helped us. Otherwise he might not be alive,” says Geetha.

Moorthy, who had recently joined the District Congress Committee, was taken to Arakkonam Government Hospital. He was later shifted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) at Chennai for further treatment. Saravanan alleges that he also got calls from the village asking him mockingly if Moorthy — who is in critical condition — will come back to the village tomorrow.

Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan (RGPRS) coordinator S Sasikumar and his wife S Pavithra — who is a District Counsillor of Ranipet district — have filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and the Chief Minister’s Cell, along with the police department.

“When there was no action taken by the police, we staged a protest on Monday, April 4, opposite the Arakkonam Taluk Office. The panchayat president had not been allowed to discharge her duties [for months], and both she and her husband had been subjected to casteist slurs and attacks by the dominant community (Vanniyar). We do not trust the police and we need CBI enquiry into the issue,” said Sasikumar.

According to sources at Arakkonam Taluk police station, an FIR has been registered against seven persons, including Rajagopal, under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 294(b) (obscene acts and songs), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 307 (attempt to murder), 506(ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); read with 3(i)(r) (insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate), 3(i)(s) (abuses using caste name) and 3(ii)(va)  (committing a crime against a person from SC or ST community) of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Two persons — Rajagopal and Shankar — have been arrested.

When Arakkonam Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) S Pugazhenthi Ganesh was contacted, he said that two FIRs were filed regarding the issue and this was the third one. “Timely action is being taken,” he said.

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