A public hearing was held in Salem on 13th July, in which Dalits of Natham Colony testified to the brutal police repression unleashed on them by the Dharmapuri police. The repression was unleashed when they attempted to observe the first death anniversary of Ilavarasan, a dalit youth, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances on 4thJuly last year after he married a Vanniar girl, Divya. The marriage of Ilavarasan and Divya was used as a pretext by the Pattali Makkal Katchi party to organise arson and violence against dalit villages in Dharmapuri.
When Ilavarasn’s family members and the people of Natham village began talking about observing the first death anniversary of Ilavarasan, the Dharmapuri police clamped Sec 144 on June 27th in Dharmapuri block, and latter expanded it to the entire district. Six members of the village, illegally held in the police station, later had several cases slapped against them. They were jailed on charges of engaging in a conspiracy to eliminate PMK leaders, possessing lethal weapons, and getting arms training with Naxalites. After 11 days, the arrested Dalit youth were charged with NSA!
More than 1500 police were engaged to encircle the entire village. From dawn to dusk, houses were ‘searched’. Members of the villages and relatives were restricted from even entering or leaving the village.
The women, elders and children spent several sleepless nights. The family members, mostly women, ran from pillar to post to every police station to know if their loved ones were alive. From every police station they got only arrogant responses and threatens.
Women in large numbers with their children approached the district collector and demanded to stop the police brutality. If not, they declared, they would surrender their voter ids and family cards and walk out of the village. Even then the inhuman police repression continued.
The village people approached the high court for a remedy, seeking to be allowed to observe the memorial day. Instead of upholding civil and democratic rights enshrined in the constitution, the HC placed restrictions, stating that only Ilaravarasan’s immediate family members could observe the memorial day from 3-4 pm, and other relatives could join from 4-5 pm! Moreover, the HC banned political parties and organizations entering the district even! In such a background, the public hearing was held in Salem.
The jury of the public hearing comprised Rathinam, a senior HC advocate, Balamurugan, General Secretary of TN PUCL and Murugavel, an advocate and writer.
Six women from Natham colony deposed before the jury. Ramani, a native of the village, who is also an SCM of Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)(People Liberation), said that the repression was staged under the direct supervision of the District SP Asra Garg. When the women complained about the brutality, he arrogantly replied, “I will plant bombs in your houses and send you all to jail.” She also revealed the police-PMK nexus. Even before the FIR could be filed before the magistrate’s court, PMK founder Ramadoss and his newly elected MP-son Anbumani Ramadoss were reading out the FIR in their press conference, she said.
Sumathi, Saalammal and Selvi, residents of the Natham colony, who were leading the women in the trying times, narrated the police brutalities with tears in their eyes.
Sumathi said, “The police called our kith and kin to the station for a routine enquiry on 27th June around 12 noon, but illegally held them. We were made to run to every police station to look for our people but in vain. Starting from 1 pm of 27th June to 4 am of 28th June, we ran from one police station to another. Several of us fainted, unable to withstand hunger, thirst and sleeplessness. While our people suffering inhuman tortures inside the police lock-up, we were subjected to intimidation and insult by the women police outside the police station! And when we were able to see through the window, six policemen were standing on the knees and thighs of our people, and beating them all over, even as they shouted out in unbearable pain.”
Selvi said, “On Nov 7, 2012, the fatal day when our villages was razed to the ground by the frenzied mob of PMK, AIADMK, and DMDK men, the police was a mere mute spectator. But now when we just wanted to observe the death anniversary of Ilavarasan, we have been subjected to such inhuman tortures. Don’t we have even the right to observe death anniversary of our loved one?”
Ramachandran of Karur spoke about the role of the police and administration in another incident. Instead of arresting the culprits who did the heinous crime of rape and murder of a dalit student in the area, the police harassed the friends of the victim in the name of inquiry, and planted stories assassinating the character of the victim!
Rajasankar from Cuddalore district narrated their fact finding report about attacks on Dalits in Vadakkumangudi village, that took place to deter Dalits from voting for Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (the party allied with DMK and headed by Tirumavalavan) and to tilt the balance in favour of PMK in this reserved constituency.
One participant, Venkatesan from Villupuram district, recounted how an upper caste (Thevar) DSP had encouraged the Vanniar mob to attack a Dalit colony there, when the Dalits of Kunnathur claimed their due share of drinking water from the panchayat president. Throughout the attack, the said DSP simply sat in his jeep, having tea and biscuits.
A college girl Sofia, narrated her bitter experience of humiliation and castiest slurs even in the city of Salem.
After the depositions, Balamurugan on behalf of the Jury concluded that the Dharmapuri police’ case against Dalits is a fabricated one. He pointed out a gaping hole in the police FIR: the named accused are in police custody right from 27th June onwards, but the FIR says the accused were apprehended on 28th June. The cases framed are illegal and the repression unleashed is totally against constitutional rights.
The Public Hearing was organized by CPIML (Liberation), Marxist Party and Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (People Liberation). Gunasekaran of Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (People Liberation), Gangadaran of Marxist Party and Balasundaram State Secretary of CPIML also spoke at the hearing. CPIML SCM Chandramohan, District secretary Mohanasundaram also participated.
Comrade Balasundaram noted that the TN Government did not want Ilavarasan’s death anniversary to become a political event drawing Dalits in large numbers, as Immanual Sekaran’s anniversary has become.
Resolutions were passed condemning the police repression and demanding a judicial enquiry; that the November 7th 2013 attack on 3 dalit villages by a PMK mob be tried by a fast track court and the culprits punished speedily; all the police excesses in Kodiyankulam, Tamirabarani, Paramakudi and Dharmapuri, Chidambaram must be re-enquired by a special Judicial Commission and the culprits punished.
Several Left and Dalit intellectuals, professors, students, TU activists, CPIML activists, and women in large numbers participated in the hearing.