Woman Dalit panchayat chief in Tamil Nadu forced to sit on floor, barred from hoisting flag; two arrested
Rajeshwari S, the Dalit president of the Therku Thittai panchayat in Cuddalore district, was made to sit on the floor, while other members were seated on chairs during a meeting of panchayat members
A woman Dalit panchayat president in the district was allegedly humiliated by the vice president, who did not allow her to sit on a chair at meetings or hoist the national flag, drawing widespread condemnation from political parties.
Police are on the lookout for the vice president Mohan Raj, while suspended panchayat secretary Sinduja and a ward member R Sugumar have been arrested, a senior police official told PTI, adding the latter has been held for offences including intimidation.
The alleged disgraceful event that led to an outrage, came to light after a photograph of S Rajeswari, president of Therku Thittaivillage under Mel Buvanagiri Panchayat Union sitting on the floor at a meeting and others on chairs went viral in the social media, prompting authorities to swing into action.
Condemning discrimination, many social media users expressed outrage and sought swift action to ensure justice. District Collector Chandra Sekhar Sakhamuri and Police Superintendent M Sree Abhinav went to the village, located near the temple town of Chidambaram and held an
enquiry on Saturday.
The Police officer said Rajeswari named the panchayat vice president and secretary in her complaint and a case has been registered against the duo under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act for offences, including humiliation and for obstructing her official work.
"We will take a statement from her, investigate and appropriate action will be taken," Abhinav told reporters. To a question, he said there would be no threat to her life, adding adequate police personnel have been deployed in the village.
"Other ward members too have realised what has gone wrong," he said. The Collector said four meetings have been held in the panchayat office so far.
The panchayat president Rajeswari was forced to sit on the floor while some ward members claimed that she did so voluntarily, the Collector said.
"The inquiry is going on, based on her complaint. Strict action as per law will be taken against those involved," he said, adding the photograph was clicked on 17 July, 2020, according to the date displayed on that image.
A show cause notice has been issued to Mohan under the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act's provision, governing removal of the vice president and appropriate action would be taken, he said.
Rajeswari, when asked why she had not complained earlier, said she initially tolerated the vice president's behaviour, but decided to lodge a complaint now when his ill treatment intensified.
Only the vice-president hoisted the national flag and she was not allowed to do so (during Independence Day and other events of significance), she alleged.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said it was 'barbaric' and promised tough action as per law. The AIADMK government had all along given due respect and recognition for the marginalised people, including Scheduled Castes and Tribes, he said.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko said such humiliation was outrageous, while DMK MP Kanimozhi said it was strongly condemnable and the leaders demanded tough action.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi Thol Thirumavalavan demanded the immediate arrest of those involved for obstructing the official work of the panchayat president.
Not only Theruku Thittai, the scenario was the same in several other villages, the VCK leader alleged and urged the government to review the situation and take appropriate remedial action.
Meanwhile, cadres of VCK and Left outfits gathered in front of the Buvanagiri police station in the district, demanding the arrest of the vice president and secretary.
The incident comes months after a woman Dalit panchayat president in Tiruvallur district was not allowed to unfurl the nationalflag on Independence Day. She did so later following the intervention of district authorities.
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