Six men of a Dalit community from Pullakavundanur village near the Coimbatore suburb of Thondamuthur have been hospitalised following an assault by men of another community. The assault took place following a quarrel that broke out during the village’s Magaliamman temple festival.
Tensions broke out on the evening of April 11, during a musical programme conducted as part of the festival, when some men from an upper caste community began dancing close to a section of the audience occupied by members of a Dalit community. Men from the Dalit community requested the upper caste men not to move so close to the women of their community. In the process, one Dalit man held the arms of an upper caste man.
A scuffle then broke out, with the upper caste men demanding how the Dalit men could hold their arms and speak to them like this. After other residents of the village intervened to restore peace, the quarrel was stopped.
However, later in the night, a group of around 20 men went into the Dalit section of the village, threw rocks at houses and beat up a number of men. Six persons were badly injured in the assault, and were admitted to a government hospital for treatment.
“They all came together in a big group. They started throwing stones. My father and others were lying down. They stamped and kicked them. Their heads and backs were badly injured, there was a lot of blood,” said Kalpana, one of the Dalit residents of the village.
They came searching for us to our houses, abused us with many bad words. They beat even old men, threw big stones at our houses. They attacked us with big sticks. Anyone who went to ask them anything also got beaten up. We didn’t go anywhere, they came to our houses and abused us. We live in a very oppressed condition, and there is no one to help us. They act like they are big people and we are their underlings,” another resident said.
The police, however, portrayed the incident as a minor scuffle between groups. “It was only a minor scuffle that broke out following a quarrel between a member of the Gounder community and the SC community,” Coimbatore SP Ramya Bharathi said.
“We have filed a case based on the complaint of one of the injured from the SC community, named Devraj. Police have already held peace talks with both sides and counselled them. It is not a major incident of caste violence. It is merely a temple festival that took a violent turn. They are claiming six people have been injured but that can only be confirmed after further investigation,” she added.
On Wednesday, members of the Dalit community protested outside the District Collector’s office demanding the immediate arrest of the upper caste men involved in the violence, and submitted a memorandum on the issue.