Wednesday, July 6, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalits prohibited from using public well

News » States » Tamil Nadu
MADURAI, July 1, 2011
Dalits prohibited from using public well
Mohamed Imranullah S.

Kodikulam, a village located under the foothills of Yanamalai
(elephant hill) near here, is a gifted place.

It boasts of an age old public well that provides tasty water round
the year. People from far and wide throng the place with cans and
drums to fetch the water home. But the Dalits of the village cannot
dare even to go near the well.

"The SCs (Scheduled Castes) cannot go beyond this point," says a
61-year old farmer, A. Akkniveeranan, pointing to a distance of about
150 metres away from the well. "They (Dalits) can ask any of us to
fetch the water for them and we will oblige. But they cannot do it on
their own. This practice has been there for ages and it cannot be
changed," he adds with no shilly-shallying.

The caste Hindus of the village, occupied predominantly by people
belonging to Kallar and Moopar community, do not hesitate to talk
about the discrimination of Dalits even to journalists. The well has
been associated with four small temples built close to it and
religious sentiments were given as a reason to keep the Dalits away
from it. "They (Dalits) will not be spared. Honeybees will sting them
if they try to go near the well," says Packiam, an aged widow.
Concurring with her, 26-year-old P. Suresh, a construction labourer,
says: "The youngsters of our village will be in these temples all
round the clock. Some of us even sleep here in the nights to prevent
anyone from defiling this holy place."

The well is surrounded by trees that are home to thousands of
honeybees. Strangers must be careful while nearing the well as they
might suffer a sting or two. The villagers have intentionally left the
honeycombs untouched as it serves their purpose of discriminating the
Dalits. "The bees do not sting us and we will not allow anyone to
clear the honeycombs," says C. Karuthapaiyyan, a 19-year-old youth.

A lawyer practising in the Madras High Court Bench here and residing
at Othakadai near here says that he and many of his neighbours fetch
water from that well for drinking.

They travel in two-wheelers to the village, which could be accessed
either through the Government Agricultural College or from the
Madurai-Chennai four-lane, and bring the water filled in cans.

"Once when I had gone there, some children asked me if I could give
them some water to drink. I asked them why they don't take it
themselves. They said they were not supposed to go there. Then, I
understood and felt very sad for the poor children. This atrocity is
being practised there for ages and nobody is able to raise their voice
for the fear of earning the wrath of the dominant caste," he says
seeking anonymity.


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