Physical Fence proof : Caste-virus 003TN2008

23Apr08

he Uthapuram wall with the fence that was electrified by caste Hindus.

A SINISTER electrical device attached to a wall that segregates Dalits from caste Hindus was removed by government officials at Uthapuram village in Madurai district on April 17. The device, it is said, was meant to warn Dalits against crossing the wall.While the 10-foot-high (three metres) Uthapuram wall, symbolising untouchability in one of its worst forms, is nearly 20 years old, the dangerous device, a sort of electric fence connecting the overhead live wire to iron rods positioned at the top of the wall, was just a fortnight old when it was removed.The existence of the dividing wall was brought to light by a study group of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Elimination Forum (TNUEF) in March (Frontline, March 28). This was identified as one of the many forms of untouchability still practised by caste Hindus in many districts of Tamil Nadu. Located in a region known for rigid casteism, Uthapuram in Peraiyur taluk has seen several incidents of caste-related violence.

In the early 1990s, after a series of clashes between caste Hindus and Dalits, sections of the aggressive caste-Hindu group erected the wall to deny Dalits access to public places and facilities in the village. The raising of the wall was only one of the many forms of untouchability practised in the village.When the TNUEF gave wide publicity to the report and pressed the District Collector to take action against those who practised untouchability, some caste Hindus could not tolerate it. They made the wall even more threatening by electrifying the fence on top of it.

They have constructed another wall in the village with the intention of preventing the authorities from providing, in response to a representation from the TNUEF, a bus shelter for Dalits. When The Hindu, in its issue dated April 17, exposed the threat to the lives of Dalits, the matter was raised in the State Legislative Assembly by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) member N. Nanmaran.Electricity Minister Arcot Veerasamy told the House that the power line above the wall would be shifted to a distant place and that the government would see to it that no harm comes to anybody because of it.Welcoming the government’s prompt response, P. Sampath, TNEUF State convener, told Frontline that the government should also take steps to remove the wall itself as it symbolised untouchability. He also called for a thorough inquiry into the electrification of the wall.

The irony of it all is that about 2,000 Dalit families live in the village and the village panchayat is headed by a Dalit.
Source: FrontLine
by S. Viswanathan



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