PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

Report of the fact finding team
Untouchability in

June 2001
PUCL (TN & Pondy.) constituted a fact finding team on 03.06.2001 on receipt of information that the Arundhathiyars of Karacheri village, Kinathukadavu Block, Pollachi Taluk of Coimbatore District were faced with untouchability and related human rights violations. Members of the Team: Murugavel, Advocate, Coimbatore Nicholas, Advocate, Coimbatore, Gopalakrishnan, Secretary, PUCL - Coimbatore Unit Balamurugan, Advocate and Joint Secretary, PUCL - TN & Pondy.

The Incidents
It was reported that Rangan was asked to get down from the bus going towards Chettipalayam at 8.30 p. m on 14.05.2001 at Karacheri village of Kinathukadavu and beaten up brutally by the Gownders. Rangan, an Arunthathiyar, was taken to the house of Village Gownder. Profusely bleeding and semi-conscious, he was forced to sign on blank papers and released. The police refused to register the compliant preferred by Rangan. After the compliant that one Dandaapani had misbehaved with Eswari (16), daughter of Karuppuswamy belonging to the Gownder caste was registered, Rangan's complaint was accepted. Eswari stated in her complaint that on 05.05.2001, Dandapani, belonging to Arunthathiyar misbehaved when he came to take the broom. On enquiry, it was found that Dandapani belonged to Manthiripalayam. He was staying in Karacheri village for some days. When the Gownders took up this issue at the village meeting, the Dalit elders were asked to bring Dandapani. Dandapani, after hearing the allegations, stated that he was innocent. According to the Arundhathiyars, when he stated that he would come as demanded, the elders returned. The village meeting on 06.05.2001 was held under the leadership of Ooru Gownder. It is said that the Arunthathiyars were ordered to bring Dandapani immediately for which they would be responsible and that if this is not complied with, there would be dire consequences, and they were threatened to sign an agreement as above, besides including that they should be willing to accept the wages given ii. they should serve in accordance to the village decisions and iii. village decisions should not be violated.

As there was no link between the alleged incident and the Arunthathiyars, fearing the conditionalities now being attempted to be imposed, the Arunthathiyars under the leadership of M. Kappan submitted a memorandum stating that they had no relationship with Dandapani and that they should be provided protection from the Gownders.

The next day the Ooru Gownder returned from the police station after giving his explanation. It is said that on 14.05.2001, P.S Bhoopathy and M. Chenniappan, who came in a moped and are involved in organising a small savings scheme among the Harijans, were brutally attacked stating that 'outsiders come here to disturb the peace'. They were chased away after having got from them in writing that they were beaten up by an angry mob after their two wheeler dashed a small girl. After this incident, Rangan who alighted from the bus was attacked. It is said that his signature was obtained in a blank paper after he was lifted and taken to the house of the Ooru Gownder.
After hectic efforts to register a complaint under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act against 5 persons who attacked Rangan, he was admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital. He was discharged on getting well after 2 days. It is said that angered at the registration of the compliant at the police station, the low caste part of the village was emptied off the people on account of the fear of threats from the upper castes who declared ' You dare complain? Let us see who will remain in the village after this!'. Except for the 7-8 families who faithfully work for the Gownders, all others vacated the village in fear. On 17.05.2001, a memorandum was given to the District Collector demanding 'Justice to the displaced people'.

On 24.06.2001 at 6 p.m a peace committee meeting was held under the leadership of RDO and Tahsildar of Pollachi on the orders of the Collector. Dalits had not participated in the talks on account of fear in the peace committee called earlier. In this meeting, however, it was agreed that a 3 member group would participate. The people began returning to the village from 25.05.2001 onwards. It is said that the upper castes imposed conditions viz. the Harijans should not enter the lands of caste Hindus and that they shall not give milk to the milk society. On 27.05.2001, when the Arunthathiyars attempted to form an organisation, they were warned by the Inspector of police and other officials that they do not have permission. They were also warned that the law and order will break down if an organisation was formed.

Arunthathiyar people live in significant numbers in Coimbatore and Erode districts in the northern part of Tamilnadu. In this belt, the Arunthathiyar community face caste atrocities more than the other Dalit sections. Oppressed socially and economically, they are denied basic rights available to other people. For example, they are not permitted to cycle in public places in the village where caste Hindus reside.

Rangaswamy (60), s/o Varadarajan: Bonded labour for 30 years following the generations old practice working as a coolie with a landlord "anger on the Dalit youths for not coming to work as coolies with the landlords"
While walking on public roads, the dhothi should be folded and the towel should be gripped under the arm pits. When any Dalit dies, the dead body is prohibited from being taken through the public roads. If a death occurs in the house of upper caste, the Dalit village with all the family members should carry out all related work. If a cow dies in the house or field of the upper caste, it is their duty to take care of the carcass.

Karuppannan (18): Grazing goats for the past 10 years should report immediately for work when called. If death takes place in the house of an upper caste, all the members of the Dalit families should go there. We should beat the drums (thuduppu). We should inform the death and cut fire wood. After that a total of Rs.300 would be given. This should then be shared amongst us, which means Rs. 3 per family. If a cow dies, all the Dalit families should go. The carcass should be buried. We should get down from the cycle and walk. If the dhothi is not folded, we are beaten up. The towel should not be on the shoulders. If the Gownders come from the other side, we should get down and walk. But the youths do not do this. In the tea shop, we should remain standing. There is separate tumbler system.

In the villages of Coimbatore District, the depraved social system of forced labour and separate tumbler exist. Last year, one Murugesan was brutally assaulted and killed in Sengudanthali near Avinasi for having traveled in a government bus sitting together.

Dalit organisations have been exposing the situation of bondage of Dalits in Hondamuthur and other areas in the northern parts of Coimbatore and agitating against these. Even if such conditions do not exist in the more urbanised cultures, in the villages and interior areas where they are dependent on the oppressive forces, the old rigid caste order and practices thrive unhindered. The beneficiaries of this system dominate educational, social, economical, political and all other sectors continuing this dominant system ignoring the state and its laws.

Ooru Gownder: A Dalit misbehaved with a girl from our caste. We asked that he be brought. We did not ask the Dalits to ask pardon.. They filed a complaint against the village meeting. Such problems have come up only after the interference of persons from outside. Two such outside persons were caught, threatened and when beaten went away after saying that they came to lay cable.

All the above mentioned atrocities are practiced at Karacheri. Since the last three years, certain social revolutionary organisations as Jati Ozhippu Samathuva Munnani and Red Flag have been providing education. The educated Dalit youths are expecting that their self-respect be acknowledged. They reject the oppressive tradition when they did passively what the upper caste ordered. Because of this, it is perceived that the Dalit youths are crossing the limits and opposing them when social and economic boundaries were clearly defined which angers the upper caste organisations.
Subramani s/o Palaniswamy Gownder - Dalits are involved as coolies and in stone crushing

Kongu Velalar Sangam Pollachi Taluk: When there are problems, the Leader of Karacheri Branch generally torture us using PCR. It is a lie when they state that they are prevented from going into the school.

Our people do not go to their colony. They are preparing to attack us. Some of their people are working with us trustworthily. Two or three even work as drivers with us. Till date untouchability is not practiced. The RDO in his enquiry had even stated that there is no untouchability. Hence, the oppressive Kongu Velalar caste have bitter feelings against Dalit youths. It was the manifestation of this anger that resulted in the threat to the whole Arunthathiyar community using the purported incident of the misbehavior of the above mentioned Dandapani with a Gownder girl. When inquired about the Dalit attack on upper castes, this was totally denied. When they were struggling even to live, they asked, how can they attack the upper caste. When the Dalits did not take up either a favourable position or opposition to the incident as a caste issue and as in all instances when the innocent and unresisting oppressed were illegally and immorally targeted for attack, the usual tactics were adopted by the oppressors.

Fearing such complex issues as challenge to their power and control, the desecration of purity by interrelationships and consequent changes in the power equations, in an attempt to justify their actions, the false image of woman is used by the male dominated oppressive society to easily provoke and fan the fire using such accusations as 'The woman was sexually harassed' and 'attempt to misbehave with a woman'.

If one looks into the past incidents in Tamilnadu, the PUCL Report on "Clashes in Northern Districts' and 'Killings in Tirunelveli - Police Attack' show that the oppressed majority are attacked whenever they organise for their just and legal rights. It is amply clear what arguments are used to justify these attacks.
It is condemnable that the government and the officials did not do anything to instill confidence to the Karacheri people who were under threat of attack from the oppressive castes. It is noteworthy that the Dalits, fearing attack, could not attend the peace committee meeting initiated by the RDO of Pollachi. In the case of the assault on Rangan, a Dalit, even when the first information report mentioned the names of the persons responsible and even when they were charged under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, steps were not taken by the authorities to arrest the accused which only goes to show the casual nature of the government.

Rangan (Age 45)the oppressive Gownders dragged me out of the bus and beat me up. Chinnakkannu Gownder (alias) Kumar Gownder, Polikkattu Rasagownder, Manicka Gownder s/o Vaikasi Gownder, Rasa Gownder s/o Sudha Gownder, Vattakkal Thottam Sambu Gownder beat me up. I was taken to the house of Ooru Gownder and asked to sign a statement saying that I was a bonded labour.

That there was a possibility of attack on the Karacheri Dalits and their Dalit supporters from outside who were in the midst of the youth belonging to the Kongu Velalar came to be known to the Fact Finding Team when they visited the place of the incidents. Those belonging to other sections of Dalits were prevented from interacting and talking to the Arunthathiyar under threat of being thrown out of the village.

Murugan (30) s/o Ammasai: On 27.05.2001, I shook hands with Mani who came opposite me when I was going from the north side to the south. At that moment, Veluswamy Gownder yelled "Mani! Mani! What is the talk with him? Get lost form here" and further threatened and beat me.

It is learnt that selection of political parties by Arunthathiyar themselves and the support of some political movements that favour them were disliked by the oppressive castes. Some sections within the upper castes exploit the ignorance, illiteracy and dependency of Dalits to corner the major part of the benefits meant for Dalits of which one is the bank loans where only a small part is given to the Dalits while appropriating the major part of the amount while also refusing to repay this amount. Untouchability prevails in the school. No welfare schemes by the Panchayat are implemented. The area where the Dalits live has been ignored from all activities. This is adequate proof that the upper caste want the Dalits to depend on them as before. It is understood that the oppressive castes do not approve changes, acknowledge Dalits as fellow humans nor recognise their rights.

Kanagaraj (40) s/o Komaran - Ward member, Member, Karacheri Panchayat - Attended only four meetings. I was not invited

For other meetings. Two years back, I received an invitation for the meeting. Not after that. am the only member There are no welfare programmes of the government. - Concrete roads were paved in the area where the upper castes live. But no roads were constructed in the Dalit area. - I was not able to do anything for the colony. - I do not even know what happens to the TV sets given by the Panchayat.

Lack of recognition of the Dalit Panchayat member makes him a namesake member in its functioning. It may be remembered that when Immanuel, the Dalit leader of northern districts became the Panchayat leader and sat as equal with the other caste members, the ego of the upper castes flared up leading finally to the Muthukulathur carnage. The contradictions and differences amongst the Dalits are artfully utilised offering a minority within Dalits jobs, thus manipulating them not only to serve them, but also to turn against the Dalit people as a whole Hence, the Dalits of Karacheri believe that they would be attacked anytime by Gownder Caste as they had raised their voice for their rights. The women and the elderly are paralysed with naked fear.


  1. 1.Adequate protection should be provided to those Dalit people in Karacheri who live in constant fear of the attack of upper castes so that they are able to lead a life of freedom.

  2. Caste discrimination and atrocities as 'denial of road to Dalits, two tumbler system, denial of water from public well (separate pipe), ban on riding the bicycle and walking freely, ban on taking the dead through public road to the burial ground etc should be put to stop immediately. If this continues, the government official (VAO) should be made responsible.

  3. Those upper caste people who attacked the Dalits should be immediately arrested under he SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

  4. The forcing the Dalits to take the carcasses and burial of the dead cows should be banned. The Panchayats/corporations should take care of these.

  5. Denial of water to drink and keeping separate pots in the Panchayat school should be prevented. This should be carried out under the leadership of the head master.

  6. The government welfare programmes should be implemented in the Arunthathiyar colony of Karacheri. The bias against the Dalits in meeting basic needs and the inequalities among the castes should be removed. It must be ensured that the schemes for the welfare of the Dalits reaches them. It must also be ensured that the bank loans to the Dalits reach them without being appropriated by others.

  7. Preventing Dalits from having contacts with the outside world and isolating them should be prevented.

  8. The government should make efforts for the Dalits to lead a peaceful life by providing protection to Dalits for another meeting of the Peace Committee so that ways can be found to resolve the problems of Karacheri Dalits.

  9. Employment must be ensured to the Dalits by distributing land to them and forming a cooperative so that their dependency on the upper castes and the consequent continuance of can be avoided.

    (The complete report can be had from PUCL TN & Pondy - Gen Sec.)

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