In a brutal attack in 2018, three Dalit men had been hacked to death with knives and sickles by Agamudiyars, a dominant caste.

Kachanatham villageCourtesy/JeyaRaniTheWire
news Caste Crimes Friday, August 05, 2022 - 20:21

The Sivagangai Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Special Court on Friday, August 5, sentenced to life imprisonment, 27 convicts in the triple murder of three Dalit men. On May 28, 2018, the Devendra Kulla Vellalar (a Dalit community) villagers of Kanchanatham in Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu were resting in their homes after festivities at their Karuppusamy temple. That night, men from the Agamudiyar community (a part of the powerful Thevar caste cluster) attacked eight Dalit men in their own homes with knives and sickles. Three of them succumbed to their injuries and five others survived with grievous wounds.  A total of 33 Agamudiyars, including four juveniles were originally chargesheeted in the case. One died during the trial and 27 of the accused were convicted on August 1 under the Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act. Today, the 27 convicts were sentenced to life in prison.

Earlier, in 2019, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court while rejecting their bails had said that the triple murders of Arumugam (68) and Shanmuganathan (31) and Chandrasekaran (34) were a grim reminder of the ugly face of caste inequality in Sivagangai district—an area prone to caste violence.

The flashpoint of the brutal attack occurred two days prior, on May 26. Two of the convicts, Suman and Arunkumar, became angry that the son of one the survivors had been speaking on his phone loudly outside the Agamudiyar home. They had considered his behaviour “disrespectful” and physically assaulted the young man, used casteist abuses and even issued death threats. During the May 28 attacks, the survivors, Dhanasekaran (52), Malaichamy (50), Sukumaran (22), Deivendran (45) and Mageshwaran (18) sustained grievous injuries. Several of them had received 40 to 50 cuts, The Wire had reported. 

As The Wire report points out, the village consisted of 36 families, only one of them belonged to the Agamudiyar community. Despite this they Agamudiyar family had repeatedly practised discrimination against the remaining 35 Dalit families. Some villagers had pointed out to The Wire then, that casteist mind-set of the Agamudiyar’s had been unable to accept that there were graduates, policemen, government employees—all signs of economic mobility—among the Dalit villagers. Prabhakar, the son of one of the three murdered men, Arumugam, was whom Suman and Arunkumar had abused about the phone call. Prabhakar is a soldier, who was home then for his upcoming wedding. He’d lodged a police complaint following the abuse and physical assault on May 26, but the police had turned a blind eye, he’d alleged at the time. It further came to light that on the night of the attack, Arumugam had been targeted instead, since Prabhakar had not been there that night.

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