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The Wall Of Untouchability Ended The Lives Of 17 Innocent Dalits

Residents say the 20-foot compound wall at Nadur in Mettupalayam was raised around a property belonging to a businessman without the local body’s permission.

The Wall Of Untouchability Ended The Lives Of 17 Innocent Dalits
Image- Dalit Camera

It was 5 am on Monday morning when 21-year-old Divya was informed of the devastation that had taken place merely 100 metres from her home in Mettupalayam. The resident of Nadur village in Coimbatore district rushed out of her home, after a night of heavy rains, to witness a terrifying sight.

Only rubble and stone was left of what had been three houses on Sunday night. And under this debris were five of her relatives, their bodies buried alive with 12 other residents, after a 20 foot wall collapsed on top of their homes.

Divya is part of the 300 Dalit families that live in Kannappan Nagar, several of whom lived in tiled houses. And while every monsoon brought with it the problem of leaking roofs and flooding, their real fear, she says, was the compound wall erected by a neighbour right behind the houses, eight years ago.

"I have been living here for 4 years since my marriage and my relatives have always complained about the instability of the wall and fear of it falling," she says, her voice choked with emotion. "The elders have all gone to the authorities multiple times to complain about this, but there has been no change. I thought they were just being unnecessarily worried and that nothing will happen but I was wrong," she laments.

Was it a caste wall?


As the initial shock over the loss of lives because of the wall's collapse wears off, members of Kannappan Nagar point out that the wall was a physical manifestation of the caste discrimination that actually killed the 17 Dalits residents.

The compound wall was built by the owner of the plot Sivasubramaniam, a textile shop owner, who raised its height from 8 feet to a looming 20 feet despite protests from the Dalit community. Moreover, it was made of basalt rock or Karungal and sources in the Municipality tell TNM that the structure did not have the requisite approvals.

50-year-old Murugesh who lost 4 members of his family due to the collapse says, "All the people who died are Dalits. We are the ones who have suffered because of this wall. What was the need to build such a tall wall? Even a central prison won't have such a big structure."

Residents allege that the wall’s height was increased because the owner did not want any Dalits to gain access into his grounds.

"We are from a Scheduled community and barely have money to make ends meet. So they believe that we will jump across their compound and steal their belongings," says Nandakumar, another Dalit resident. "That is why they have built such a large compound wall," he adds.

DEMAND FOR WALL REMOVAL UNHEEDED

Since several years, the residents of AT Colony have been demanding the wall’s removal. They had submitted memoranda to the district collector and the municipal commissioner, stating that the wall was a threat to their safety. Their demand was not heeded, and had ended up claiming 17 lives.

K Samuvel Raj, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), affiliated to Dalit Soshan Mukti Manch, told “The partisan attitude of the administration in not listening to the anxiety of the oppressed class has ended in a terrible incident. Repeated representations from the community did not receive the attention the issue deserved. The owner of the house should be booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act since the wall was not built for protection but to isolate the dalits.

The TNUEF also demanded the removal of a transformer, a fragile midday meal scheme building and Anganwadi building in the locality to avoid further mishaps.

PROTESTORS REMOVED ‘FORCEFULLY’

On Monday, the residents of AT Colony and dalit organisations resorted to road blockade in the Mettupalayam- Ooty road demanding immediate arrest of the landowner. The administration called for immediate burial of the bodies, against which the protestors resisted. The urgency of the administration further raised doubts over the “influence” of the alleged culprit.

“There was severe urgency from the administration to bury the bodies immediately. There was no one to receive the bodies, since all members of a family died in the accident,” added Samuvel.

It was also alleged that the administration and police opted to use muscle power to remove the protestors. Policemen in uniform and plainclothes were seen violently attacking poor dalit people on a day when they had lost many of their kith and kin, said sources, adding that some policemen were also seen punching, kicking and pushing the protestors.

Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader, M K Stalin, has condemned the police action and the “lethargic attitude” of the administration that is being held responsible for the deaths. The DMK leader called for immediate action against the police and accused the administration of being “controlled by vested interests”. Stalin also demanded that the government should build new houses for residents of the area.

PROBE DEMANDED

Later, TNUEF leaders met the district collector and demanded a detailed enquiry into the incident. Many of the Opposition parties condoled the deaths and demanded justice for the affected people, even as the state government has not issued any statement yet regarding the incident. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, too, has not commented on the incident, attracting widespread criticism for the civil society.

Courtesy- Newsclick, The News Minute


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1 Comments

  1. Hang the culprits!...The caste ridden society is a valueless society!...These people simply are not human, they are like devil and should be dealt in the manner they treat so-called low-caste people!

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