On December 2, 2019, an “untouchability” wall in Mettupalayam came down following heavy rainfall, killing 17 residents of Nadur village in Coimbatore district. Close to a year later, the upper caste man who had originally constructed the wall, allegedly to seperate himself from his Dalit neighbours, is re-constructing the wall, this time after securing permission from the local body.
S Sivasubramaniam, a textile shop owner, had built a 20-feet-tall stone wall reportedly to fence his property and to isolate the Dalit settlement from his two-acre property. Not even a year after this incident, that received widespread outage, Sivasubramaniam has once again erected the wall, and at the same height, alleges by his neighbours. Work for it began about 20 days ago and was completed earlier this month.
According to a reports, Municipality official has said the permission has been granted with strict instruction that the height of the wall cannot exceed six feet from the surface of his property. Sivasubramaniam’s property is already on elevation of 14 feet from the surface on the other side. The newly raised wall is now about four to six feet from his ground level. This, is about 18 to 20 feet from the ground level on the other side and that is clear from pictures of the new wall.
The civic body has allegedly granted permission upon going through detailed drawings and structural stability-related details of the wall.
On the fateful night in December last year, the 20-feet wall (built over the 14-feet elevation) had come crashing down on asleep residents, killing 17 persons including three children. While he was booked under section 304 (ii) of the Indian Penal Code and section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, Sivasubramaniam was let out on bail later that month.
Following the collapse, residents of the colony had alleged that Sivasubramaniam had raised the wall from 8 feet to a looming 20 feet, all to prevent them from gaining access into his grounds. The incident sparked outrage in the state and many Dalit organisations organised a protest in Mettupalayam demanding justice for the victims.