Tuesday, May 10, 2011

[ZESTCaste] TN village asks dalits to pay up more for tea



TN village asks dalits to pay up more for tea
M T Saju, TNN | May 10, 2011, 06.11am IST

CHENNAI: A couple of weeks ago, when a group of dalits from R
Palakuruchi village lodged a complaint with the police, alleging
practise of the 'double-tumbler system' in the village, the non-dalits
reacted in a strange way. They hiked the rate of tea served to dalits
in village stalls.

The tea stalls started charging dalits Rs 7 for a glass of tea,
costing just Rs 4 for a non-dalit. Since most of the tea-stalls are
run by non-dalits, the dual price system has dealt yet another blow to
the dalits who have been facing oppression in the remote areas of
Tamil Nadu for long. However, K Gowri, sub-inspector at the
Ulagampatti police station, where the complaint was lodged, claimed he
was not aware of any hike in the price of tea for dalits. "We have to
investigate and see whether any shop is selling tea at a higher rate
to dalits," he said.

However, activists say the reason behind hiking the rate of tea is
simple. If you hike the rate, no dalit will come and have tea. "The
poor dalits can't afford to have tea by paying seven rupees. So
instead of saying 'no' to serving tea to them, the shopowners have
hiked the charge," says T L Ramu, activist and municipal councilor of
S Puthur.

While every shop in R Palakuruchi keeps five 'steel' tumblers each for
serving tea to dalits, the non-dalits are given tea in glass tumblers.
"We are not allowed to sit on benches. We have been facing
discrimination for a long time, but with this special rate for tea,
its has reached another level," he says.

It all started on April 26 when a group of dalits complained to the
police about the practise of 'double tumbler system' in the village.
Out of vengeance, the non-dalits allegedly assaulted and tortured two
dalits -- Manimuthu and Ganesan -- after tying them with a rope. A
case was also filed in this regard and they were later rescued by the
Ulagampatti police. The decision to hike the rate for tea followed
soon after this incident. "We have arrested two people in connection
with the assault case. We also called people from different groups and
a warning was also issued," sub-inspector Gowri said.

"It's high time the concerned collector visited the place and ended
the discrimination. Already, the two-tumbler system is prevalent in
many places. Now the issue has become more serious with the hike in
the price of tea served to dalits," said K Sundar, an activist based
in Sivagangai.

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