9 months on, Dalits yet to return home

MADURAI: Nine months after 35 Dalit families fled from their native Vembathur village of Sivagangai district fearing for their lives after the murder of two persons, fear still stalks the community as they are yet to return home. Even a police post in the area has failed to instil confidence among the Dalits.

It all began on January 29 last year when S. Muthukrishnan (28), a Dalit youth from Vembathur, was murdered in the same village. The alleged motive was revenge as two caste Hindus from the nearby V Pudukulam village had been arrested following a complaint from Muthukrishnan’s brother S Murugan.

Three months after Muthukrishnan’s murder, one of the accused, Karuppusamy, a caste Hindu from V Pudukulam, was murdered on May 4, for which 11 Dalits from Vembathur were arrested. Fearing retaliation,
all 35 Dalit families of Vembathur deserted the village on May 4.

Despite two rounds of peace meetings held by revenue authorities, normality is yet to be restored.

The Dalit families are living scattered in various towns, including Sivaganga, Thirumancheri and Melur.

Deprived of their livelihood as small farmers and agricultural workers, members of the families are working as construction workers and daily wage workers in nearby towns and Madurai city. The schooling of about 20 children too has been affected.

The latest peace meeting held at Sivaganga on Saturday was inconclusive.

Those who represented the caste Hindus of V Pudukulam village said since the Dalits were divided into three groups after the local body elections, the other two groups should be taken on board.

They promised peace and requested the revenue administration to convince the other two groups to participate in a future peace meeting.

Durga Murthy, the Revenue Divisional Officer of Sivaganga, who presided over the peace meeting, told Express, “We will hold another peace meeting soon. Revenue officials visited the village. Police post is there.”

A team from Evidence, an NGO, visited the affected village and the people. A Kathir, director of the NGO, said: “Chief Secretary and Director General of Police should ensure the security for the Dalit people of Vembathur. Those threatening the Dalits should be apprehended. And `3 lakh should be given as compensation to each
family who were forced to desert their villages.”

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