Dalits in Tamil Nadu village attacked for voting in election

Published : April 20, 2019 20:04 IST

Scores of Dalits, including women and children, were injured and their houses, utensils and two-wheelers were damaged when a 100-strong mob attacked their colony and indulged in violence on April 18, when Tamil Nadu voted in the general election, at Ponparappi village in Ariyalur block in Tiruchi district. A video of the violence went viral on social media.

At least 20 tiled houses, belonging to Dalits and sporting the “Pot” symbol on their walls, were totally damaged. Eight Dalits sustained serious injuries and were admitted to the Jayamkondam Government Taluk Hospital. The village falls in the Chidambaram Reserved Lok Sabha constituency where Dalit leader Thol. Tirumavalavan of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) is the candidate of the DMK-led alliance. Vanniyars, who are a most backward caste group, are in the majority here and are members of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which is a partner in the AIADMK-led alliance.

Police sources told Frontline that a group of people belonging to the Vanniyar community attempted to prevent an elderly Dalit in the village from exercising his franchise. He objected to it and sought police intervention. A police man on duty ensured that he could vote. Besides, when polling was on, a few other persons affiliated to the PMK and the Hindu Munnani, a Tamil Nadu-based Hindutva group, broke a pot, the symbol allotted to the VCK chief, leading to an altercation. This culminated in the violence in which the Dalit colony was targeted.

“The village has a strong Vanniyar population of 5,000 families, whereas Dalits are fewer than 500. Hence they live in constant fear of harassment and intimidation from the powerful MBC group,” said an activist. On April 19, the Ariyalur district administration visited the colony and assessed the damage. Based on the complaint filed by one R. Gunaseelan, the Sendurai Police arrested 12 persons and picked up scores of others for questioning. A total of 24 persons have been named as accused in the first information report.

Condemning the violence, A. Kathir of Evidence, a Madurai-based rights organisation, which carried out an on-the-spot assessment, claimed that 115 houses were damaged, 25 of them fully. A total of 13 persons were admitted to hospitals near by. Many, he said, suffered head injuries. The vandals used abusive language against the victims and women. “Residents of the Dalit colony, a total of 700, overwhelmingly voted for Tirumavalavan, which irked the PMK. This led to the violence against Dalits by the Vanniyar mob. It is a shame,” he said.

The DMK leader M.K. Stalin condemned the incident and wondered whether rule of law existed in the State today. He said that election-related violations took place in many places. Tirumavalavan told the media after visiting the village that the Hindu Munnani and the PMK were behind the violence. “Since Dalits were prevented from voting, the Election Commission should order a re-poll in Ponparappi village,” he demanded. He accused the PMK of indulging in booth capturing at several places.

Violence and violations

In fact, sporadic incidents of violence, multiple casting of votes, mass deletions of voters’ names and so on were reported from many parts of the State on voting day. In Nathamedu village in Pappireddipatti of Dharmapuri parliamentary constituency, from where the PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss is seeking re-election, men, allegedly from the PMK, were seen casting votes multiple times. A CISF constable at Keezhvisharam in Vellore opened fire in the air to disperse two groups of party workers who indulged in fisticuffs.

Complaints of mass deletion of names from voters’ lists were reported from a cluster of fishermen villages in Kanyakumari parliament constituency, from where Union minister Pon. Radhakrishnan is contesting again.

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