“This is the matter of our existence. We don’t know how long we will have to suffer if we don’t resist now,” says S Sivarajan, the local leader for the Dalits in Ambedkar colony.
The border village of Govindapuram, in the Palakkad district of Kerala, has been in the news for the past month, following reports of discrimination by caste Hindus — both upper and backward castes. The trouble began on 27 May, when a Chakliar (Dalit) girl married an Ezhava (backward caste) boy. Their wedding was solemnized in the presence of police officials, but the husband and wife were reportedly ordered to live separately without any communication for six months.
Since the wedding, the village is tense fearing a caste clash. The fray, which followed the inter-caste marriage, has united the caste Hindus against the Chaklia community.
The Chakliars have been bullied and threatened into living in groups day and night. The men sleep in the temple in the night, and the women in the houses nearby. They all camp near the temple during the day, prepare food in the open and eat together.
This discrimination has not surfaced suddenly. Dalit women, in particular, counted different forms of caste discriminations they face daily. “There are two taps attached to the water tank. One is for the caste Hindus. The Gounders (caste Hindus) keep the tap open and go to their homes. If we close the tap because their buckets are filled, they shout at us, drain out the water and fill again. They also serve us tea in separate glasses in the hotel of the Chettiyar caste,” said Shanthi.
However the upper castes denied the accusations of caste discrimination. They say that there are two taps on the tank for managing the crowd. The hotel owner, Thankamma, said that the she serves tea in the same glass to everyone except for kids, who may break glass.
The Dalits say they are denied entry into the local temple as well. In response, they have constructed a temple for themselves, which is not dedicated to any god, but to a historic warrior who is believed to have fought for the Dalits.
The panchayat vice-president, Radhakrishnan M, is accused of being the main perpetrator of discrimination in the village. “He has managed to keep many Dalits in his political arena. So whenever a politician or an official visits the colony, he keeps them in front and say there is no caste discrimination,” accused Sivarajan.
Panchayat president Baby Sudha, said that they are not responsible for the poor living conditions of the Dalits, since they came in power only last year and, United Democratic Front was ruling the panchayat till then.
Kerala state SC/ST commission chairman P N Vijayakumar visited the village on Friday. The commission will submit a special report on 30 June to A K Balan, the Minister for Welfare of SC/ST.
According to Nithya Kalyani, a researcher working in the area, members of the Chaklia community were attacked by Communist Party of India (Marxist) followers on Saturday night, leaving three men, including Sivarajan, injured.
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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 15:17:38 IST