Over 75 houses, 15 bikes, 10 autos and a TATA Sumo car were damaged in the attack, according to eyewitnesses. As the attack continued, people sought shelter at Nagamalai hillock. Later, when the Dalits returned to their houses, they were shocked at the enormity of the vandalisation.
The Dalits blamed the policemen for being mute spectators. Muthu, a resident, said that a group of caste Hindus came to the hamlet when men were not present and began pelting stones. Women rushed to protect the children, who were playing on streets. “The attack was a planned one and though policemen were present at the spot they did little to bring the situation under control, he said.
Another resident Balraj, a lorry broker, said though they had informed the higher officials, Usilampatti DSP, Radhakrishnan, had given false information to Madurai SP, Manivannan, that members of both the castes were at loggerheads.
It is said that enmity between the two communities began in the Kali Amman temple festival for which the High Court had given a stay. However, when they proceeded with the festival despite the order, they had informed the Usilampatti RDO, Suganya, and a peace meeting was held in which the DSP supported the dominant community. Ayyankalai, State Joint Secretary, VCK, said, all the caste Hindu men involved in the attack should be booked under the Goondas Act. However, S Vanitha, Sekkanurani inspector, said that a case had been registered and 50 members each from the dominant community and dalits were booked. There will be more arrests after investigations, said the inspector.
Women suffer the worst at Panniyan
In Panniyan village, Dalit women are victims of untouchability. Raji, working as an optometrist at the Aravind Eye Hospital at Madurai, said that dalit women here cannot wear silk sarees and gold jewels.
“Caste Hindu women cannot tolerate seeing them dressed well. They will question them in public to insult them. They do not like their economical growth,” explained Raji.
Annalakshmi, an elderly women, said that upper caste women do not like Dalit women wearing slippers. “They want them to remain as their slaves and do not recognise their basic rights,” she pointed out. Most dalit women wear slippers only during temple festivals and on important occasions but even then the upper caste women abuse them in public.
Even the sheep of the dalit women are not spared. If the ruminants happen to enter the upper caste residential areas, the dalit women would be immediately verbally abused publicly, rued Lakshmanan, another resident of the village.