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Dalit houses torched for taking out procession in Tamil Nadu village: How the conflict unfolded

On Sunday, 70 persons were arrested by the Tamil Nadu police for burning and damaging Dalit houses in the state's Villupuram district. The cause of the attack, in which 40 persons were said to have been injured, was a pending dispute over the rights of Dalits to take out a procession in the village. According to a report in The Indian Express, the mob that carried out the attack, also burnt vehicles belonging to Dalit families, and slaughtered livestock. The incident brought back memories of a similar attack in Tamil Nadu in 2012, when nearly 150 Dalit houses were torched after the suicide of a man (from the Vanniyar caste), whose daughter had eloped with a Dalit boy.

 Dalit houses torched for taking out procession in Tamil Nadu village: How the conflict unfolded

Representational image. Image courtesy: PTI

Here are some important facts from the incident in Villupuram:

1) The incident took place after an unidentified person torched the temple car that members of the Dalit community were going be drive in a procession through the main road of the village. According to the The New Indian Express, this triggered the initial clashes between the Dalits and the politically powerful Vanniyars. The Indian Express reports that the main road "divides the houses of Dalit and Vanniyar families".

  • 2) Earlier, the Dalit community had built a Mariamman temple in the village after they were denied access to at least five temples, which are run by the Vanniyars. While they were denied permission to hold the procession for four years, this year, they were allowed to do so, which led to the conflict.
  • 3) According to a report in The Hindu, members of the Vanniyar community dug up the road so as to block the path of the procession. When police personnel tried to stop them from doing so, they were attacked with stones and petrol bombs. Seven police personnel, including Villupuram’s District Superintendent of Police Narendran Nair, sustained injuries.
  • 4) The Hindu reports that the police has arrested 70 persons after the incident and booked them under sections of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, and sections relating to arson, unlawful assembly and damage to public property. According to The Indian Express, the police are also looking for Subramaniam, the village head who is said to be a functionary of the DMDK.
  • 5) A Madurai-based human rights organisation called Evidence is also said to have found that several Dalit women were also abused in the attack. The Indian Express has quoted a member of the organisation saying that the women were stripped and told to run, leaving their children behind.
  • 6) In 2012, a mob of about 2,500 persons had torched 148 houses in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu after a man whose daughter eloped with a Dalit man, committed suicide. The mob is said to have claimed that the “humiliation” caused by the marriage and the refusal of the Dalit community to send the woman back home led to the man's suicide. A report of this incident is available in The Times of India.

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Updated Date: Aug 18, 2015 13:26:39 IST