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Of course, the evolution of civilization has been turning a deaf ear and blind eye against the prevalence of the world's longest surviving caste discrimination. Even in the computer-age, caste pride leads to egotism, sadism, barbarity and inhumanity have made the woman President of a panchayat belonging to the Scheduled Castes sit on the floor instead of sitting in her chair. The humiliation took place near the temple town of Chidambaram in Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu before the aftermath of the tragic incident in which a Scheduled Caste woman was repeatedly raped and murdered in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. This proves that civilized society in the computer age has gone back 100 years.dalit president in tamilnaduWhat in fact, happened?

Predominantly there are 1600 Vanniyar people belonging to MBC and an extremely small extent of 100 Adidravidar-Paraiyar people belonging to Scheduled Caste living in Therkuthittai village in Bhuvanagiri taluk, Cuddalore district. Until now Therkuthittai panchayat had been a public constituency. It was in the recent panchayat election that the Therkuthittai Panchayat was declared as a reserved constituency for women for the first time. Mohanraj of DMK is an influential person in this panchayat belonging to the Vanniyar caste decides to field a woman from the Scheduled Caste loyal to him as the panchayat president. Accordingly, Rajeswari of ADMK resides in the first ward of the Therkuthittai Panchayat, has been elected as the President of the panchayat with the best support of Mohanraj. There are a total of six wards in the Therkuthittai panchayat. In one of these wards, except Suganya, member of the first ward, who belongs to the Paraiyar caste, the other ward members are from the Vanniyar caste. Mohanraj won the member of the second ward and unanimously selected as a vice-President of Therkuthittai village.

Panchayat President denied the chair:

Suganya, a member of the first ward in the Therkuthittai Panchayat said, "So far, a total of four meetings have been held in the Therkuthittai Panchayat with two village Grama Sabha meetings and two panchayat meetings. Instead of eight, only six plastic chairs were consciously and calculatedly placed in each of these four meetings. It was used by Panchayat Vice-President Mohanraj, four ward members from the Vanniyar caste and Panchayat Secretary Sindhuja from the Vanniyar caste, on the contrary, having no other option Panchayat President Rajeswari and I, both belong to the Paraiyar caste, were deliberately forced to sit on the floor and took part in the four meetings.

Panchayat President denied hoisting national flag:

Rajeswari, President of the Therkuthittai Panchayat, said, "on August 15, 2020, Independence Day, I eagerly went to hoist the national flag. Some relatives came with me, including my husband. Similarly, Panchayat vice-President Mohan Raj was accompanied by his relatives. At the time of flag hoisting, Mohanraj called his father and asked him to hoist the flag. I was stunned and silent without being able to say anything. I cried myself when my relatives asked me why you didn't hoist the flag. I came home crying without being able to say anything."

Water tank motor room was locked:

Saravanakumar, husband of Rajeswari, President of the Therkuthittai Panchayat, said, "Before the panchayat election, the water tank motor in the first ward where the Paraiyar caste people live was under repair. Since the ward member and the panchayat President belong to the same ward, people complained about the long-standing water problem. The panchayat President immediately intervened and repaired the motor and handed over the room key to Suganya member of the first ward for maintenance. On hearing this, Mohanraj, the vice-President of the panchayat, and Sukumar, a member of the sixth ward, came there, broke the lock of the motor room, put a new lock and gave the key to Sankar, who had contested and lost victory in panchayat President election. Then Mohanraj threatened Rajeswari that you might be the President of the panchayat, but I am everything in this panchayat.

Appeal to Panchayat President's Federation:

Babu, the state co-ordinator of the Social Awareness Society for Youth, said, "The actions of the panchayat vice-President were all aimed at humiliating the Therkuthittai Panchayat President with caste discrimination. Rajeswari and her husband have appealed to the Scheduled Castes Panchayat President's Federation about this as the practice of discrimination is increasing day by day. They showed a photo of the July 17 panchayat meeting which was evidence that she was then sitting on the floor. That is what went viral on social media and was brought to the attention of the Cuddalore District Collector."

 Commenting on the caste austerity in Cuddalore district, he said, "Noticeably in Cuddalore district, the caste problem does not seem apparently for the reason that the present generation of the two communities will talk to each other in a manner of "brother,- uncle and brother-in-law" relationship. But when the issues broke out, the Vanniyar will all react together with the quality of caste arrogance and big-headedness. Times are changing. Civilization is changing. But caste austerity has neither changed nor diminished. On the contrary, it is increasing, "he said in an honest sense of right and wrong and each word is bound in genuineness.

Actions taken:

 A case has been registered against Panchayat Vice- President Mohanraj, Panchayat Secretary Sindhuja and Sixth Ward Member Sukumar under Section 3 (1) (m), 3 (1) (r) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015. The district collector also said that action would be taken under the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act 1994. The district superintendent of Police said the panchayat President and his family and the member of the first ward had been given due protection.

Preventive measures:

It is still the norm for such crimes to take place and legal action to be taken against them. On that day in 2003, Raju, the Scheduled caste Panchayat President of Sottathatti in Sivagangai district was allegedly beaten with slippers for hoisting national flag as part of Independence day celebrations. Today, a woman panchayat President was denied to hoist the national flag in the Cuddalore district. Similarly, the incident of the Athupakkam panchayat leader of Tiruvallur district has been avoided due to the intervention of the district collector. It is time to take action to prevent such caste-based discrimination.

  • Such unwanted events do not often take place in the reserve constituencies where the Scheduled Castes are in the majority. Government officials need to keep in mind that the reserved constituency is the area where the majority of the Scheduled Caste people live.
  • Appoint officers with special powers to monitor caste-discriminations in the activities of reserve constituencies. Only then can put an end be put to the long-lasting caste discrimination.
  • The National Scheduled Caste Commission should pay special attention to the reserve constituencies. In addition, special attention should also be paid to the research papers and research articles published so far on the problems found in the reserve constituencies.
  • District Collectors are required to release a monthly report on the activities of the reserve panchayat constituency. The District Collector should pay special attention, especially on Independence Day, Republic Day, Grama Sabha meeting etc. They should be given awareness training on their rights and powers and specialized training on capacity building as well. It is essential for the effective functioning of panchayat by promoting transparency and paving the way for social audit.

Obviously, the government should identify and implement creative measures to curb the spread of caste-based discrimination in local self-governance system.

- S. Mohan

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