Monday, September 20, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Case buried along with girl, police turn blind

Case buried along with girl, police turn blind

Jaya Menon, Sep 20, 2010, 05.16am IST

Perched on the edge of a highway, Nilakkottai in Dindigul district, is
a picture postcard village. But, the neat row of tiled houses, clean
mud roads and the comforting picture of quiet rural life belie caste
turmoil. Just six months ago, this pastoral calm had been rudely

In March this year, elders gathered under the manthai' in the village
centre. Twenty-two-year-old Dhanam and dalit youth Vinoth Kumar (27)
were summoned for the hearing'. The village dominated by families
belonging to the Thevar sect of piramalai kallar' was shocked that
Dhanam, a nurse in a hospital in Chennai, had dared to fall in love
with the dalit youth and worse even live with him, defying tradition
and caste taboo.

Violent scenes were witnessed in the tiny village square, flanked by a
huge water tank and a primary health centre. The young couple were
beaten up by the villagers, who ordered Vinoth's family to leave the
village and never to return. Dhanam's mother Mariammai was not spared
too as villagers beat her up and even broke one of her arms for
"supporting her daughter and bringing her up in such a fashion". Her
father, A Muthusamy, joined the villagers in punishing his family.

On March 9, the village gathered outside at Jallipatti, on the village
edge, in a small clearing beside the highway. A small group of elders
then decided it would be the wisest thing "to remove the blot" on the
village. Muthusamy was asked to "take a decision". According to the
village panchayat ward councilor and Dhanam's uncle E Ayyappan (26),
in the early hours of March 12, the girl was taken by her father to
their garden across the highway. "Muthusamy kept a bottle of poison on
the ground and told his daughter that either she should take it or he
would consume it as he could not live down the shame. Dhanam drank it
up," said Ayyappan.

Three family members then carried Dhanam's body back to the village,
to a small patch of ground used by the villagers as a cremation
ground. Truck tyres were placed on the body to speed up the process
and her body was set on fire. Today, a burnt patch and some pieces of
bones are what remain of a shocking death. "Though we have two police
constables living in our village, the case was completely hushed up,"
said Ayyappan.

Nilakottai panchayat president, A Seeman is yet to get over the shock.
"The issue was not brought to me. We didn't know what happened until
after the incident. We only heard that the girl was forced to marry
her relative. But she was with him for about five days and then ran
away again with the dalit youth. She was tracked and brought back by
the villagers and the next thing we knew, she was dead," he said. The
Nilakottai police plead ignorance.

DGP Letika Saran has promised action if the details of the case is
faxed to her office. "We register all such cases as murders. All the
conspirators too are charged with murder. It can be a case of
suspicious death. But as soon as we get evidence pointing to murder,
we alter the IPC sections accordingly," she told The Times of India.
But stern police action in some cases have failed to act as deterrent
for villages cocooned in their own laws.

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