Wednesday, May 4, 2011

[ZESTCaste] A village where dalits can't wear footwear or ride bikes

A village where dalits can't wear footwear or ride bikes
V Mayilvaganan, May 3, 2011, 12.22am IST

MADURAI: Villur, set in a typical agrarian backdrop with about 1,200
households was once a peaceful village that was until the dalits
challenged the diktats of the upper caste' Thevars.

For dalits of Villur, about 50km from Madurai and the scene of
violence on Saturday night, buying a motorcycle was a sign of extreme
luxury just few years back. But only after they managed to buy one
they realized that the bigger challenge was riding it down the neatly
laid Kaliamman street in the village that leads to their colony.

When G Thangapandian (27), a dalit youth, decided to challenge the
caste diktat that dalits should not ride motorcycles on Kaliamman
street, it ended in a brutal attack on his house by a mob of over 500
persons, including women armed with broomsticks.
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"If I am alive now it is because of this grill gate," pointed out G
Murugan, Thangapandian's brother. The gate was damaged in several
places. "The mob tried to break open the gate with boulders, but left
later on Saturday night," said Murugan, fear still evident on his

The dalits, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and economic status of
the more influential Thevars, obeyed the diktats they did not wear
footwear and they did not ride bicycles or motorcycles on Kaliamman
street. "We are served tea in different tumblers and we are not
entertained in the barber shops in the village," said Murugan's father

The village has been a witness to the worst forms of caste
discrimination, as even schools have become a platform for such
practices. "My non-dalit classmates would demand that I address them
as Ayya.' If I call them by their names they would abuse me with
filthy words and threaten me," said M Palani, who just completed his
Plus-Two in the higher secondary school in the village.

It all started about ten years back when the family of Thangapandian,
who owns a seven-acre land beside a poclain vehicle, questioned the
restrictions imposed on dalits. "His family was immediately
ostracized," said Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front
secretary K Samuel Raj.

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