Members of the influential Vanniyar caste in Moolaparai village of Tamil Nadu have allegedly assaulted their lower-caste Kuravar neighbours using metal and wooden bars as well as stone-pelting. All injured family members have been shifted to Nammakkal government hospital with internal injuries.
While speaking to Madhyamam, head of the family, Subramaniyan revealed that the alleged assaulter's family had displayed a history of violent and abusive behaviour for at least 2 years, extending to the use of 'witchcraft' and even throwing eggs, bones and pooja items at their doorstep. The incident occurred while he was at work, he revealed.
The family has claimed that the animosity was due to caste differences. A similar dispute had arisen at the time of their building a house in Moolaparai village. Quoting the Vanniyars, the family says they were asked: "How can the Kuravan come here and buy a car and live near my house?"
Pandiyan Kamal, Executive Director of 'WITNESS for Justice' an anti-caste-based violence organization based in Madurai told Madhyamam that Kuravar families were a common target for such atrocities despite being a minority in villages.
"They don't have any political voice. There is a common wall between Subramaniyan's and Shanti's (alleged predator) house. In most of the days he and his family get threatening words from their Vanniyar community neighbours," he said. "Subramaniyan used to complain to the police station but the police would force a compromise in the name of caste by telling them that they are the only Kuravar family residing in Moolaparai."
Subramaniyam's family has also alleged that the Jedarpalayam police are refusing to file a case.
"Even though there is a section in SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Amendment Act called 18 a, which says no preliminary investigation is required for filing a First Information Report, the police says that they need proof to file a case," said Kamal, who will be acting as an advocate for Subramaniyam's family.
Caste-based atrocities have reportedly increased fivefold during the year in Tamil Nadu. Recently three people were arrested for forcing Dalit boys to clean excreta. The latest NCRB data shows the conviction rate in offences under SC/ST Atrocities Act was 32 per cent nationally the rate of pending cases is at an alarming 94 per cent.