TN Minister makes tribal boy to remove his footwear, gets slammed

In a video, Forest Minister Dindigul C Sreenivasan says, “Remove this…buckle, buckle” as one of the boys bends down and removes his footwear.
TN Minister makes tribal boy to remove his footwear, gets slammed
TN Minister makes tribal boy to remove his footwear, gets slammed

In a brazen act of high-handedness on Thursday, state Forest Minister, Dindigul C Sreenivasan made a youngster from the tribal community in Nilgiris district remove the buckle of his slippers in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR). He had to remove his footwear before he entered the shrine. The Minister was surrounded by police, party men and even Nilgiris Collector J Innocent Divya but none of them made a move to stop the AIADMK leader from summoning the youth.

In a video of the incident, that has now gone viral, the Minister can be seen signalling casually to two boys who were out of the frame.

"Inga va da (come here)," he says first.

He then says, "Odi va (come running)."

The boys are clearly hesitant to come close because a chorus of 'Va da (Come here)' then begins. The Minister can then be seen moving forward and pointing at his footwear.

"Remove this...Buckle buckle," he says as one of the boys bends down to his feet and the other watches on. The boy who removed the footwear belongs to the Irula tribal community.

A party worker can be heard warning the boys for which the Minister says there is no hurry. Surrounded by authorities meant to protect his rights, the boy then removes the Minister's buckle and moves away from the spot.

This incident has garnered criticism from activists across the state for the manner in which the youth were treated.

Speaking to TNM, M Selvaraj, a forest rights activist says, "This Minister is known to unthinkingly comment or say things in the past. But this act of his is unacceptable. Already tribal communities in Mudumalai are frustrated and unhappy. They are fighting displacement on a daily basis. They are threatened by government officials, police and mafia who smuggle wood and reduced to fighting for basic rights. And with this act, the Minister has further degraded their stature."

Activists further point out that the Minister and the authorities who silently watched on, can be booked under the Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act.

"The Minister's act is punishable under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. First of all it an act of intentional discrimination done in public view. There is a common intention based on the caste of the youths and the burden of proving that it was not discriminatory will fall on the accused. The police can take suo moto action in this case," says Pandiyan, of Witness for Justice, an anti-caste organisation.

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