In yet another shocking caste crime in Tamil Nadu, five Dalits, including a five-year-old boy, were hacked by two dominant caste men in Perungudi of Madurai district on Monday, November 27. The survivors were identified as Ganapathy Kumar, Ajith, Vijayakumar, Periyasamy, and his grandson. They are the residents of Sankaiah Koil Street, Perungudi and belong to the Paraiyar community (Scheduled Caste, SC).
As per the First Information Report (FIR), R Mari and K Sasikumar, who belong to the Kallar community (Backward Class, BC) came to the playground in Perungudi on a motorbike around 7.00 pm on Monday. Kallar is one of the three subcastes of the politically powerful, dominant Thevar community. They asked the Dalits about one Kannan Pillai near a stage in the playground, where Ganapathy Kumar, Ajith, and Vijayakumar were having a chat. The Dalit men replied that they did not know anyone by that name.
Soon, an argument broke out between the Dalits and the dominant castes after the latter allegedly used casteist slurs. Mari and Sasikumar, the Kallar men, allegedly questioned the Dalits for not unfolding their dhotis to show ‘respect’ to the duo.
In Tamil Nadu, it is common practice for men to fold their dhoti (traditional lower garment for men) around their waists to move more freely. Undoing it and letting the hem fall to the feet while addressing someone is considered a gesture of respect. It is considered ‘disrespectful' when Dalits do not stand up, wear white head wrap, or do not bow in the presence of privileged and intermediate caste members.
As the quarrel escalated, the duo allegedly started to attack the Dalits with swords that they had carried with them. Periyasamy, who had seen the scuffle, tried to intervene and stop the attack. However, the assailants attacked Periyasamy and his five-year-old grandson too. The boy sustained cuts on his legs. The assailants fled the spot when people started to gather after they heard cries from the playground. The gathered residents called an ambulance and rushed the injured Dalits to the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai, where they are undergoing treatment.
The police are investigating the matter and the duo was nabbed and remanded. Meanwhile, the police have tightened security in Perungudi village.
Mari, one of the assailants, is a water tanker driver, while Sasikumar is a mason. Both of them hail from Perungudi locality. As per reports, a criminal case is pending against Mari.
Speaking to TNM, one of the survivors said that it is common for the duo to pick fights with Dalits. “We have tried to file a police complaint against Sasikumar and Mari. But the police officers from their community tried to solve the issue by holding compromise talks,” he alleged.
Recalling their previous attempt to file a complaint, the survivor said, “Upon stepping out from the police station, Mari and Sasikumar threatened to hit us with Mari’s water tanker on the main road.”
A senior police officer from Madurai said that they have not received any complaints of police conducting khap panchayats in Perungudi.
The survivor also demanded the government to give proper medical care to the five-year-old boy who was severely injured on both legs.
Dalit rights activists and politicians urged the government to take necessary steps to stop caste atrocities from spreading across. Vanni Arasu, the deputy general secretary of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) urged the police to take immediate action against the attackers and book them under the Goondas Act.
Perungudi police have registered a case against Mari and Sasikumar. They have been booked under sections 294(b) (sings, recites or utters any obscenity in public), 324 (voluntarily hurt by use of dangerous means), 307 (attempt to murder), and 506(2) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The police have also invoked sections 3(1)(r) (intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate an SC/ST person), 3(1)(s) (abuses any SC/ST person by caste name), and 3(2)(va) (offenses against a person or property of SC/ST communities) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
In a similar incident that took place on November 7 in Tiruppur district, a Dalit man belonging to the Arunthathiyar community was abducted and beaten for not standing up when a Gounder man stood next to him.