TN Dalit man killed, son assaulted over Muthuramalinga Thevar banner

Alleging that a Dalit couple’s 15-year-old son Karunakaran tore a banner of Muthuramalinga Thevar, a six member gang hurled casteist abuses and threatened them.
Marimuthu, the man who was killed by upper caste Hindus
Marimuthu, the man who was killed by upper caste Hindus

A 38-year-old Dalit man was hacked to death and his 15-year-old son was assaulted by a three-member gang in Thoothukudi, on November 13, claiming that the boy had torn a banner of  Muthuramalinga Thevar that was installed during ‘Thevar Jayanthi’ celebration. Though there were six people in the group, only three indulged in violence, while the others hurled casteist abuses. However, only the three persons who attacked the duo have been arrested so far. Muthuramalinga Thevar is regarded as an important figure in the Thevar caste-cluster and his birthday falls on October 30 which is celebrated grandly in various southern Tamil Nadu districts.

According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Thoothukudi South police based on a complaint by Marimuthu’s wife Radha (37), there was a banner near their residence on Thevar Jayanthi day, which was later found torn. Marimuthu and Radha belong to the Paraiyar caste, a Scheduled Caste community. Radha’s complaint said that a six member gang - Mugesh alias Panai, Pathirakalimuthu alias Muthupandi, Jeyaraj alias Jeyamuthulingam, Mugesh’s father - Shanmugavel and his brothers Meeran and Murali - came to their house, alleging that their 15-year-old son Karunakaran tore the banner, hurled casteist abuses and threatened them, on November 11.

Police say that Mugesh belongs to Paraiyar caste, Pathirakalimuthu is from the Thevar caste and Jeya Muthulingam belongs to Nadar caste. On the same day, the six member gang had also gone to the police station to file a complaint against the boy. But Marimuthu agreed to pay them Rs 1500 as compensation for the banner and the issue was resolved.

However, on November 13, three of the six member gang - Pathirakalimuthu, Mugesh and Jeyamuthulingam allegedly beat up Karunakaran and Marimuthu tried to stop it. That was when Mugesh allegedly chased the father-son duo. He first attacked Karunakaran with a machete on his back and on his hand, and then assaulted Marimuthu with the machete. As Mugesh was stopped by Marimuthu’s wife and mother, Pathirakalimuthu took the machete from him and started assaulting Marimuthu.

Further, Mugesh took the machete again and attacked Marimuthu brutally. Meanwhile, Jayamuthulingam was beating up Karunakaran. After the trio fled from the spot, the father and son were taken to Thoothukudi Government Hospital, where Marimuthu was declared dead on arrival. Karunakaran is still undergoing treatment.

Radha alleged that Shanmugavel, Mugesh’s father, was watching the attack and hurling casteist abuses all the while. Stating that the six persons conspired and murdered her husband and that she was scared for her and her family’s life, Radha filed a complaint seeking action against them.

Speaking to TNM, Kathir, founder of Evidence, an NGO that works for Dalit rights alleged that this was a pre-planned murder. He said, “Marimuthu and his family live in a Dalit settlement. In a place dominated by caste Hindu communities, can a Dalit person place a banner of Ambedkar? Especially in southern Tamil Nadu, which is prone to caste conflicts?” He added that people have the freedom to place banners of any leader they want to but one must also be aware of ground realities.

Kathir said that the banner of Muthuramalinga Thevar had been placed before Thevar Jayanthi but the problem began on November 11. “Karunakaran’s father went to the police station and even paid Rs 1500 as compensation for the poster. But that was not enough for them. They wanted revenge and ended up killing the father and injuring the son,” Kathir said.

In a press release issued by Evidence, Kathir mentioned that the people accused in the murder should not be given bail until the case is heard and a judgement has been passed. He also demanded that the state government must offer a monthly pension of Rs 15,000 to Marimuthu’s family and government employment to one of his family members.

Muthuramalinga Thevar is a polarising personality, and events during his birth anniversary trigger tensions in many areas of Tamil Nadu. In 1957, Immanuel Sekaran a dalit leader was killed by Maravars or Thevars. This happened a day after Sekaran refused to stand up for Muthuramalinga Thevar at a meeting.  'He is not a leader to me. He wanted to destroy my whole community,” Sekaran said. The meeting was held after the Mukkulathor riots in which 42 dalits were slain following tensions with Maravars, who are a sub-caste of Thevars.

The FIR has been registered under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 294(b) (obscene acts and songs), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 307 (attempt to murder), 302 (punishment for murder), 506(ii) (criminal intimidation) IPC r/w 109 (punishment of a abetment), 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) IPC and sec 3(1)(r), 3(1)(s), 3(2)(V) of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Section 3 of the SC/ST Act deals with Punishments for offences and atrocities against a member belonging to SC/ST castes.

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