Upper castes fear Dalits’ attack after breach in wall

May 8th, 2008 - 9:49 pm ICT by admin  

Madurai (Tamil Nadu), May 8 (IANS) Upper caste Hindus of Uthapuram village, near here, stayed away from their homes for the third consecutive day Thursday, saying they feared “militant Dalits’ attack” after the state government officials breached the village’s “wall of shame”. The district authorities with police protection created a 10-foot pathway Tuesday in the 20-year-old wall that segregates the upper caste Hindus’ locality from the Dalits’.

Local leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)claimed the “caste wall” denied Dalits access to basic amenities like primary healthcare and motorable roads, a charge denied by upper castes’ representatives.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat had hailed Tamil Nadu government’s step in demolishing part of the wall Wednesday.

Peeved by the development, over 250 Hindu upper caste families moved to the nearby hills, claiming they feared “imminent attacks by militant Dalits with political patronage”.

“The wall was erected in 1989 as a safety measure to protect ourselves from rowdy (people) who started a clash. Both the communities agreed to it. We were tension-free till now, and it has started all over again with political patronage,” P. Murugesan, an upper caste community leader here, told IANS.

Television footage showed Uthapuram upper caste Hindu village folk - men, women and children - camping in the open. While a community kitchen supplied rice gruel, the rest of their diet consisted of dry rations.

R. Balakrishnan, another spokesman of the upper caste Pillais, said: “Some of this foodstuff has come from Thevar and Dalit families alike. Therefore, to say that we practise untouchability is a canard”.

“Our demands are simple. Our rights to worship in the local Amman temple and re-building of houses destroyed in the 1989 riot are non-negotiable,” he said.

District Collector S.S. Jawahar and Superintendent of Police T.S. Anbu are continuing their efforts to get the Pillais back into Uthapuram village.

“Apart from having ordered a police outpost in the village, I have also told the upper caste people that we will look into all their demands. But, the move to forget and forgive has to come from all sides sans pre-conditions. Notwithstanding all this, there is total peace here,” said Jawahar.

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