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Faeces put in Schedule Caste community's water tank in Tamil Nadu village where untouchability still the norm

The village community first realized something was wrong when children began to fall ill and doctors suggested that the drinking water source could be the reason
Last Updated 29 December 2022, 10:21 IST

In Tamil Nadu, the home of the Periyar movement, a shocking case of caste discrimination came to light. Human faeces were found dumped in a water tank meant for the Scheduled Caste community in a village in Pudukottai.

When district authorities went to investigate they found that the discrimination was much more deep-seated, and untouchability was incorporated into the way of life there. Kavitha Ramu, the district collector, and district police chief Vandita Pandey went to central TN's Irayur village after complaints of a huge amount of human waste being found in a 10,000-litre water tank which was being used by the Dalit community of around a 100 people.

The village community first realized something was wrong when the children began to fall ill and doctors suggested that the drinking water source could be the reason behind the problems. Some men climbed the tank and looked inside.

Kumaran R, a villager, said that the water smelled different and they found a huge quantity of human excreta dumped in the tank. He said the lid of the tank is made of cement and can only be lifted by two people.

Moksha Gunavalagan, a political activist in the area, told NDTV "A huge quantity of faeces was found dumped inside the water tank. So much so the water had turned yellow. Without knowing that, for a week or so, the people were drinking this water. When children fell ill -- that's when the truth came out."

It remains unclear for now who is responsible but the fence around the tank had been opened in the past few days. Ramu told NDTV "When the young men climbed the tank, they found the lid open... No one has reported seeing anyone climb and dump the waste into the water tank."

As per locals, caste discrimination is prevalent in the area. For three generations, the Scheduled Caste community in the village have not been allowed to enter the temple there, and the village tea shop even has a different set of glasses for SCs.

When the collector and chief of district police went to see the situation for themselves, a case was filed against the tea stall owner. They also took the entire SC community to the temple and asked them to identify the individuals who'd kept them out. At this time, a woman from the so called 'upper caste' declared - apparently in a trance - that she was possessed by the deity of the temple who did not want the SC community to enter, NDTV reported. A case has been filed against her too.

Meanwhile, the Gandharvakottai MLA, M Chinnadurai said "The police have commenced an investigation and it seems that this is an act of miscreants. We have arranged water supply through an alternative route so that the people don't suffer. Let the police find out the people behind this inhuman act and bring them before the law of the land."

A local, wishing to be unnamed, added "This is not an act of miscreants, instead there is a planned move behind this. We got a water connection in 2017 after several years of struggle and now this has happened because someone does not like us getting a regular water supply and this is linked to caste. I expect the police to conduct an impartial investigation and bring the culprits before the public domain."

The collector noted that no immediate trigger for the caste tension had come to light.

In Tamil Nadu, before Independence, Ramasamy Periyar had begun the temple entry protests, which inspired the Dravidian movement that dominates much of the state's politics to date. However, in several villages in Tamil Nadu, caste is a major factor leading to fighting and killing, and those of the marginalised communities have been subjected to horrors before.

In 2019, there was a report of a Dalit being force-fed human excreta and urinated upon in Thiruvanduthurai village near Mannargudi in Thiruvarur district. In 2010, a Dalit youth from Indhira Nagar in Meikovilpatti in Dindigul, alleged that a group of 'high caste Christians' forced him to eat human faeces after he was seen walking with sandals on, in their street in the district.

(With inputs from IANS)

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(Published 29 December 2022, 06:40 IST)

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