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Tuesday 18 October 2011

Dalit candidates threaten to withdraw from contest

Dalit candidates threaten to withdraw from contest
D. Karthikeyan
Four candidates who are contesting for the post of panchayat president in Keeripatti coming under Usilampatti taluk have threatened to withdraw from the contest alleging undemocratic practices followed by caste Hindus in the village.
Keeripatti is one among the four reserved panchayats, the others being Pappapatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and Kottakachiendal in Virudhunagar district, which saw severe opposition from the dominant castes to conduct elections, and when held the Dalits were asked to resign, thus making a mockery of democracy.
However, concerted efforts during the previous DMK government saw the restoration of a democratic setup in these panchayats.
The Hindu carried a news item on September 29 stating that the situation is dicey in Keeripatti after dominant caste members called for an ‘oor (village) panchayat' (an assembly of elders, wealthy and influential persons, mostly belonging to the predominant caste group) and chose A. Mokkakaalai (33), a conservancy worker, as candidate.
For lineage god
This being the situation, on Friday, they again called for an ‘oor panchayat' meeting for which Mokkakaalai, the candidate chosen by the Piramalai Kallars, was seen beating the ‘thamukku'(traditional drum) to announce the meeting.
The villagers said that the meeting which took place from 6.30 a.m. till 7.00 a.m. saw the Piramalai Kallars make promises and take vows on flames of camphor to their lineage godVangaru Thevar Samy that they will not vote for others but only Mokkakaalai.
It was also said that people who voted for others would be ostracised from the village. The Dalit candidate Mokkakalai fielded by the Kallars have been assured of three sovereigns of gold and Rs.1 lakh in cash if he wins the election.
The Dalit candidates, B. Chinnasamy (35), N. Subban (50), P. Palani (41) and A. Subban (55), told The Hindu that the administration was biased towards caste Hindus. Higher officials, including the Collector and Revenue Divisional Officer, did not visit the Dalit areas in the village to hear their grievances but only met the caste Hindus.
They also alleged that the policemen who accompanied the candidate, M. Baluchamy, during the campaign were the kinsmen of villagers and it was nothing but mere tokenism on the part of the administration. The other Dalit candidates have not been able to campaign at the caste Hindu areas.
“Once the election is over, we all could be under threat as there is a precedence of the entire village ostracising Dalits who disobey the prevailing practices,” said A. Subban. They urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to either postpone the elections or ensure proper security and allow them to campaign and conduct the elections in a democratic manner.
Kathir, Executive Director, Evidence, said that there was no doubt that there existed a kind of uncertainty in Keeripatti over the realisation of empowerment of Dalits, which was one of the declared objectives of decentralisation of power. The SEC should take stringent measures to restore democracy in its fullest form.
The Hindu

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