The Tamil Nadu government had allotted a separate burial ground for those from the Dalit community after a video of a body being lowered from a bridge in Vellore went viral.

Madras HC slams TN govts move to build separate burial ground for Dalits in Vellore
news Court Monday, August 26, 2019 - 16:46

The Madras High Court on Monday questioned the Vellore district administration's decision to allot a separate burial ground for members of the Adi Dravidar Community. The bench pointed out that the government was only further promoting caste segregation through this action. The Tamil Nadu government had allotted a separate burial ground for those from the Dalit community after a video of a body being lowered from a bridge went viral. 

The matter was brought to the court's notice last week by the Central government assistant solicitor, Karthikeyan, after the media reported on the difficulties faced by oppressed communities at Natrampalli in Vellore district when cremating or burying bodies. They were allegedly denied access to a government path to their traditional burial spot, forcing them to lower the body on a plank from a bridge to cremate it. The practice was exposed after a video of the final rites of a deceased man named Kuppan went viral. 

Relatives of Kuppan claimed that caste Hindus owned land near the path to the burial spot and refused to let the oppressed communities take corpses through the area. Following this,  the district administration allotted half an acre of poramboke (common) land on Thursday as burial and cremation ground for those from the Dalit community. The same was informed at court on Monday. 

However, on hearing the proposed solution, the court expressed dissatisfaction. 

The court said that when hospitals, government buildings and police stations were common for all castes, establishing separate burial grounds would promote caste segregation. The court further questioned why, despite orders to remove any names that denote caste from public roads and buildings, some schools carried the 'Adi Dravidar' tag. 

The High Court has directed the Collector and Tahsildar of Vellore to submit a report on what action was taken in connection to the incident on August 28. 

This incident happened 20 kilometres from Vaniyambadi on Saturday.  55-year-old 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.

Also read: Denied road access, Dalits in Vellore forced to lower body from bridge for cremation

Speaking about why they made the video, Kuppan's relative 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.” 

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