By M. S. S. Pandian
The current effort by the Tamil Nadu Government to abolish the special status of the Adi Dravida Welfare Schools (numbering 1,017 with 2,18,385 Dalit students) and Government Tribal Residential Schools (numbering 243 with 23,687 tribal students) and to bring them under the control of the Education Department will spell disaster for the future education of the Dalit and tribal communities.
The move by the Government is defended on a number of grounds. First, it is claimed that it would end the isolation of the Dalit and tribal students and integrate them with others. Second, regular inspection of these schools by the officials of the Education Department will improve the educational quality of the Dalit and tribal students. Third, the maintenance of these schools accounts for about 60 per cent of the annual budget of the Adi Dravida Welfare Department; and by bringing the schools under the Education Department, this money could be used for other welfare measures benefiting the Dalits. None of these arguments seems to be valid.
These schools came into being because of the caste Hindu resistance to accommodate the Dalits in regular schools. The long history of this resistance to Dalit education need not be recounted here. It was campaigns by Dalit leaders such as Irrataimalai Seenivasan, Panditar Iyothydoss and Swami Shajananda, relentless efforts by a section of Christian missionaries and British colonial bureaucracy, and administrative moves by Justice party ministries in the 1920s (in particular, the ministry under P Subbarayan), which ensured to the Dalits minimal access to education during the colonial period. In other words, if the Adi Dravida schools remain special and separate, it is because of the long-standing and continuing resistance by the caste Hindu society to Dalits' education.
Have times changed and are we ready for integration? Going by all evidence, different forms of untouchability abound in various parts of Tamil Nadu. The `two-tumbler' system is a well-known instance. The violence against the Dalits by caste Hindu communities and the so- called enforcers of law is definitely on the increase. While this signals the Dalits' assertion against caste oppression, it also tells us about the refusal of the caste Hindus to give up their caste privileges. The state itself has become a puppet in the hands of the caste Hindus. The fate of a state-run transport corporation named after Veeran Sundaralinganar is a telling instance.
Schools are not institutions located outside society and the caste relations in the wider society find their own manifestation on school campuses: sports teams in schools are divided on the basis of castes; better performance of the Dalit students in a sports event spills on to the streets as caste violence; and noon meal centres keep separate plates for the Dalit students. The recent press reports tell us that Sri Chandrasekarananda Saraswati University at Kancheepuram, a deemed university run by the Kanchi Mutt, discriminates its business management students, despite their having paid a substantial capitation fee, on the basis of caste. In such a context, the so- called integration can only lead to constant humiliation and marginalisation of the Dalit students in classrooms and, consequently, to their self-hate. That is no congenial atmosphere for learning.
Again, it is not true that inspections by the officials of the Education Department will improve the quality of education in these schools. An appraisal done by the Department of Evaluation and Applied Research has found that the Dalit and tribal students of the special schools have done better than their counterparts in regular schools in Plus-Two examinations. The reason could very well be that the teachers in these schools are drawn from Dalit communities. This could have resulted in an environment of non-discrimination of the students by the teachers and even a certain extra commitment to the students as both the teachers and the students share the same social milieu.
Finally, there is no guarantee that the additional funds made available by bringing these schools under the Education Department will augment the benefit to the Dalits and tribals. It is almost an annual ritual that part of the funds allotted for welfare programmes for the Dalits is returned unspent to the Union Government. Thus, it is not funds that seem to be at the heart of the matter, but the will of the state and its bureaucracy. A recent exercise carried out at Chennai as part of sensitising state functionaries to Dalit issues is instructive here. When the state functionaries were given the imaginary option to choose a caste other than their own, most of them opted to be either a Brahmin or a Thevar. This being the state of things, to expect the additional funds to be spent at all— that too meaningfully— is to indulge in fantasies.
Denial of education as a way of exercising authority has a long history in this State. For example, the first Congress ministry in the Madras Presidency after independence, headed by C. Rajagopalachari, chose to close down hundreds of rural schools. The current move by the Tamil Nadu Government is yet another effort partaking in this past legacy— this time targeting the most marginalised sections.
Alongside this move, the Government is planning to hand over Dalit welfare hostels to NGOs— in an effort to privatise them. Confirming reports, Jayendra Saraswati of the Kanchi Mutt has admitted that the Mutt has expressed its willingness to the Government to take over these hostels. He also reasoned that if the hostels were handed over to Christian missionaries, they would convert the Dalits into Christians, but his agenda is one of humanising them. While his statement treats the Dalits as awaiting humanisation, his uncalled for invocation of the Christain missionaries makes explicit his Hindutva agenda.
It is for the Dalits to decide whether they wish to be Hindus, Christians, Muslims or atheists. It is not the business of the state to guide them into any one of these or other options. After all, education is meant to expand human choices rather than restrict them.
The police have been charged, yet again, with perpetrating excesses against Dalits at Sankaralingapuram and Challichettipatti villages in Tamil Nadu's Thuthukudi district.
in Sankaralingapuram and Thuthukudi
THE Tamil Nadu police are in the dock once again for their brutal response to protest actions by the people, particularly the marginalised sections. Again, it is the Dalits who are the victims. The indictment of the police came this time from a six-member panel headed by Justice H. Suresh, former Judge of the Bombay High Court. The committee held a "public hearing" into charges of police excesses against Dalits at Sankaralingapuram and Challichettipatti villages in Thuthukudi district in November 2001. The "hearing" was arranged by a joint struggle committee.
Although the immediate provocation for the police action was the death of a constable while handling a road blockade agitation by Dalits of the two villages on November 16, 2001, the genesis of the trouble lay in the panchayat elections held a month earlier. In a swoop on the villages following the policeman's death, at least 180 persons, including a large number of women, children and even infants were arrested and allegedly beaten up. With virtually one-fifth of the Dalit population in police custody, the rest left the village fearing police repression.
This is not the first time that the police have been charged with committing excesses against people or mishandling "riotous situations" in the district. The police rampage on the all-Dalit village of Kodiyankulam on August 31, 1995 (Frontline, October 20, 1995) when caste-related violence was rocking the southern districts in the mid-1990s was the worst. The word Kodiyankulam, has since then virtually become a synonym for state terrorism, particularly against Dalits, in this part of the country. Although the Gomathinayagam Commission of Inquiry exonerated the police of charges of committing excesses, the then Director-General of Police V. Vaikunth himself described the police action as "mindless violence" and said that never in his 30-year career had he witnessed such a "totally inhuman act on the part of my own police". The Gomathinayagam Commission had to conclude the way it did "for want of evidence", as the Kodiyankulam victims boycotted the enquiry. Several incidents of custodial death and rape too do not speak well of the track record of the police.
SANKARALINGAPURAM, about 80 km from Thuthukudi (Tuticorin), and the nearby village Challichettipatti form part of Sankaralingapuram panchayat. Sankaralingapuram has about 220 families of Naidus, 200 of Paraiyars (a sect of Dalits), 30 of Sakkiliyars (also Dalits), 50 of Thevars, and at least 15 of the other castes. Sixty families of Chettiyars, 30 of Nadars and six of Paraiyars live in Challichettipatti. The Dalits here are mostly agricultural workers, who depend on the land-owning Naidus for their livelihood. A cotton spinning mill and a few fireworks units provide employment to people from both the villages.
Untouchability is still said to be practised in the villages. Dalits, for instance, are barred from using a tank at the centre of the village and denied access to streets where caste Hindus live. Yet, for decades, no major conflict arose between Naidus and Dalits. A substantial number of Dalits are Christians, and the village has a Roman Catholic
The trouble arose when Dalits wanted to field their candidate in the election for the post of panchayat president in this general constituency, since those who held the post so far, they say, had done nothing for them. Caste Hindu groups could not tolerate this "challenge". So when O. Vijayan of Challichettipatti filed his nomination for the post as the first-ever Dalit candidate, against R. Balakrishnan, a Naidu, tension began to build up. It reached a crescendo on poll-eve and on the polling date, October 18. The alleged attack on Vijayan's brother-in-law Ponraj, and Raju, who vigorously campaigned for the Dalit nominee, on October 17, heightened the animosity. Both Ponraj and Raju had to be hospitalised and a complaint was lodged with the police. Dalit leaders' intervention and the arrest of Balakrishnan's sons in connection with the incident helped ease the situation.
However, the next day trouble burst out again: on polling day, while Balakrishnan could freely visit the polling booth in the Dalit area, Vijayan had to face hostile groups when he visited booths in the caste Hindu areas. Vijayan was said to have been attacked and there was pelting of stones, delaying the polling process. The police rushed and reportedly attacked Dalits in which Muthu, a Dalit, was seriously injured. However, when Chettiyar youths assaulted Dalits and the latter complained to the police, these were ignored. Balakrishnan won the election.
On November 15, when a caste Hindu youth complained against Ponraj, the police registered a case. When Dalits of Challichettipatti protested against the police bias, caste Hindu groups threw stones at Dalit women and damaged houses. A Dalit and his young son were assaulted. When Dalits complained, the police intervened only to arrest the Dalits. Around 300 Dalits then blocked traffic on the nearby Vilathikulam-Pudur road to protest the police discrimination. A team of policemen from Pudur arrived and resorted to a lathi- charge. When a constable beat a Dalit youth, some of the demonstrators came to his rescue. Murugan, a Special Branch constable, who alighted from a bus, joined the police. The Dalits are said to have retaliated by throwing stones. In the melee Murugan and another policeman were injured. Angry policemen chased the Dalit demonstrators into the village and over 150 Dalits were rounded up. The age of those arrested ranged from 30 days to 90 years.
Fearing further arrests and repression, a large number of people fled from the village. They were chased by the police, who meanwhile got information that Murugan had died while being taken to the hospital. A number of Dalits, including women and children, who managed to escape, had to spend nights in the fields and open grounds in heavy rain. They moved from place to place, but most of them landed up in police custody.
What followed was large-scale destruction of property in the deserted Dalit colony. Houses were damaged and ransacked. Almirahs, fans, mixies, grinders, television sets, tape-recorders, cassettes, bicycles, sewing machines, cooking vessels, wooden furniture, steel cots and bedding were damaged. Dalits who returned after a few weeks complained of property loss amounting to nearly Rs.45 lakhs. Even certificates and mark-sheets of students, employment exchange registration cards, land pattas and other important documents lay strewn. Gold jewellery and silverware were also missing, the locals complained.
Four months after the incident, the Dalit houses in the villages bear tell-tale marks of the rampage. The police continue to patrol and insist that every visitor record his name and address at the entry point. Schoolchildren seem to be the worst hit.
There are two versions about the November 16 incidents. The police blame a group, which, they said, was infuriated by the killing of Murugan, who belonged to this caste. The police say a case was filed against 19 persons from this group and they were sentenced to "imprisonment till the rising of the court" and a fine of Rs.3,000 each. However, Dalits refuse to believe this and blame the police. Old women who could not run away from the village, and a youth who managed to hide assert that it was the police who ransacked the houses. Lending support to this version is the fact that the rampage falls into a pattern that has generally been seen in similar atrocities involving policemen elsewhere: destruction of not only articles of daily use (cooking vessels, rice, kerosene and so on), but also sources of livelihood (agricultural implements, sewing machines, land pattas, education-related certificates and so on). At least 150 houses were damaged. The names of almost all those arrested, including old men and women, and students figured in the list of the accused, who were charged with the murder of Murugan. Of the arrested, eight school-going children were released on bail on January 1, 2002, 64 women and 15 children on January 23 and 43 men on January 28.
For more than a fortnight, the police did not allow anybody inside the Dalit colony. Attempts of political parties and civil rights groups to visit the areas failed. "This action of the police was anti- democratic," observed P. Sampath, member, State Secretariat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Sampath had visited the village on December 5. "This has not happened even at Kodiyankulam," he said. Had the police handled the road blockade agitation tactfully, much of what had happened could have been avoided, he said. R. Krishnan, former MLA and convener, Human Rights Monitoring Committee, Tirunelveli said the denial of permission to visit the place was part of a "cover-up exercise" by the police. Advocate P. Ganapathisubramanian, who defended the victims in the Kodiyankulam case, said that the naming of old people and children in such large numbers as accused in a murder case was unheard of.
THE panel included R. Ratnaswami, former member, State Human Rights Commission, Dr. N. Markandan, former Vice-Chancellor of Gandhigram Rural Institute-Deemed University, V. Karuppan, former IAS official, Mythili Sivaraman, All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) national vice-president and D. Ravikumar, president of the People's Union of Civil Liberties. In its public hearings at Thuthukudi on March 16 and 17, 38 witnesses chosen from among 110 persons who had filed affidavits, gave evidence. Henri Tiphagne, Director, People's Watch-Tamil Nadu, who was one of the organisers of the hearing, explained the modalities of the hearing. Expressing happiness at the people's response, Mythili Sivaraman said that such "people's courts" were emerging in many parts of the country.
Among those who deposed were Vijayan's wife, Pechiyammal, Subburaj, who witnessed the raid on the village, the Bishop of the Tuticorin Diocese, Rt. Rev. Peter Fernando, Communist Party of India MLA S. Rajendran, and a leader of the Naidu community, Rangaramanujam. Several women, including Pechiyammal, broke down when they narrated the police torture and said that the police used abusive language while beating them. The Bishop said he was denied entry to the affected part of the village. Later when he visited the village to console the victims, he was horrified by what he saw. Rangaramanujam said that his community desired to live in peace with Dalits and sought an "impartial" inquiry.
On March 17, two members of the panel, Markandan and Ravikumar, visited Sankaralingapuram. In its interim prima facie findings, the panel found several charges of human rights violations to be true. The panel wanted "a proper, impartial investigation" into the murder of Murugan. It said that the arrest of a large number of Dalits and the manner in which they were arrested "can never find justification under any human rights law". They arrested men, women and children at random. They mercilessly beat them and tortured them. They indulged in all sorts of violence against Dalits," the panel observed. It pointed out that several women had deposed that they were "almost stripped" of their clothes at the police station and that children were denied food. "Suffice it to say that the police were so brutal in their attack and arrest of these Dalits, men, women and children, that their over-zealousness in their desire to teach a lesson for the Dalits exceeded all limits of decency," the panel said.
The panel found that the Dalits had suffered huge losses that warranted payment of adequate compensation. It was shocked to see that although two First Information Reports showed that Dalit houses were attacked by "upper caste" people, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had not been invoked. It said that evidence suggested that the police had repeatedly visited the village after the Dalit occupants had fled. The panel, therefore, called for an enquiry by a sitting High Court Judge. The panel observed that the police had behaved in a way that clearly indicated a bias against the Dalits. There was evidence, the panel said, that the police had used abusive language and casteist expressions. "All these police personnel have become liable for prosecution under the S.C./S.T. Act," it said. In view of the large- scale violation of laws relating to women, the panel suggested that the State Commission for Women hold a sitting at Sankaralingapuram. The panel hopes to release its final report within three weeks.
The waiting game continues in Uttar Pradesh as the Bharatiya Janata Party is in no mood to prop up a government headed by Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati.
PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI
in New Delhi
U.P. ki majboori hai, Mayawati zaroori hai (Uttar Pradesh has a compelling need for Mayawati). The slogan that was often heard at Bahujan Samaj Party vice-president Mayawati's election rallies is proving prophetic. Uttar Pradesh is at a crossroads, and the road to the Chief Minister's residence stops at Mayawati's house. With 97 representatives in the 403-member Assembly, she is in a position to dictate terms to any government that will be formed in the State. She has made it abundantly clear that if she cannot become Chief Minister, then no one else will - at least not in the present Assembly.
Bahujan Samaj Party vice-president Mayawati.
With the Samajwadi Party (S.P.) out of the race, despite emerging as the single largest party, it was left to the BSP and Bharatiya Janata Party to sort out the tangle. These were the only two parties that together had the numbers required for government formation. A solution did look feasible when the newly elected Assembly was kept in suspended animation and Mayawati resigned her Lok Sabha seat. Mayawati was banking on support from the BJP to form the government. Her resignation from the Lok Sabha in early March was meant to be a signal to the BJP that she was only interested in the chief ministerial post. But the BJP proved to be tougher than she expected. Given its past experiences in government formation with her, the BJP is wary of her. It is keeping her waiting in order to make her climb down from the high pedestal and do business with it on its terms. Mayawati, obviously disappointed with the BJP's attitude, has been avoiding the media, keeping to herself at her bungalow in New Delhi. Although the State unit of the BJP has opposed extending any kind of support to Mayawati, a section of the central leadership is still weighing the option of joining the BSP in government formation yet again in order to avoid facing another round of elections. This section argues that it would be difficult to get the President's Rule in the State approved in Parliament because the Congress has announced its opposition to such a move. In that case, either President's Rule would be extended for another two months or fresh elections would be called. The central leaders are not hopeful of the party's prospects in the event of a fresh round of Assembly elections. Their argument is that in order to buy time, they should support Mayawati to form the government.
The State BJP president Kalraj Mishra and former Chief Minister Rajnath Singh are openly opposed to any effort to form the government together with Mayawati. They posit that since the people's verdict is against the BJP, the party should sit in the Opposition. This stand has found favour with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Home Minister L.K. Advani, who maintain that joining hands with the BSP would further alienate the BJP's core vote bank - the upper-caste voters - and the party would pay a heavy price in the next parliamentary elections. "Like in the past she is bound to invoke the Dalit Act. A Dalit resurgence under her leadership would demoralise our grassroots support base. After our already poor showing in the Assembly election, we cannot risk this. We should concentrate on recovering lost ground," a senior BJP leader said. In his opinion, it would do the party a lot more good if it decided to sit in the Opposition. The BJP leaders also argue that it is better to continue President's Rule for as long as possible. "President's Rule means our direct control over the State which we will lose if we support a government led by Mayawati. We are in no hurry to announce support for her. We can afford to wait because frustration might set in among the elected legislators of other parties and a solution could emerge on its own in due course," a BJP leader said.
Their thinking is that the waiting game would prove costly for her since there is always the risk of defections. "If we continue to wait, we have nothing to lose. Instead, as time passes she will come under pressure and come around to sharing power on our terms," a senior BJP leader said.
According to sources in the BJP, the section that is in favour of helping Mayawati form the government is led by Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi. But Joshi is learnt to be advocating extending support from outside. "This will keep us away, to some extent, from her misdeeds," this section argues. But even on this there is difference of opinion within the BJP. A section of pro- Mayawati State leaders, led by senior leader Lalji Tandon, is for joining the government. According to this section, outside support does not make sense as the party will become discredited for propping up the BSP government. On the other hand, "if we are inside the government we can put some checks and balances at least," said a leader belonging to this section.
INTERESTINGLY, all the major political parties seem to be weighing their post-election options in view of the coming Lok Sabha elections. The prospect of early elections to the Lok Sabha has cast a shadow over the process of government formation in U.P. All political calculations are guided by the realisation that the parliamentary elections could be held earlier than expected - in 2003. In this context, the apparently illogical decision of the Congress(I) to oppose President's Rule instead of supporting S.P. leader Mulayam Singh Yadav makes sense. It is this realisation that seems to be guiding the BJP as also the S.P. and their reluctance to form the government by breaking other parties. According to a senior S.P. leader, even if a government is formed by tod-fod (breaking) it will not last long because the compromises involved would be too many and there would also be the anti-incumbency factor to contend with. Hence it is safer to remain outside the power games for a while. The main reason why the Congress(I) did not support the S.P. is the new-found confidence in Congress(I) circles that the party is on a comeback trail, if its good performance in the Assembly elections in Punjab and Uttaranchal are any indication. In these States it wrested power from the BJP and its allies.
According to Congress(I) leaders, the party is within striking distance of power in New Delhi, and any support to the S.P. at this juncture in U.P. would mean frittering away the minority vote in the State which is coming its way. "We agree we did not do very well in this election. But the Lok Sabha elections are a different matter altogether. We have emerged as the only viable alternative to the BJP at the national level. We are the only national party that has a pan- Indian presence. This factor will prove decisive in the next Lok Sabha elections. We are getting back the support of the minorities too. Why fritter it away for some short-term gains by supporting Mulayam Singh? Supporting him would mean giving away whatever minority support we are regaining," argues a senior Congress(I) leader in charge of Uttar Pradesh.
AS for the S.P., it seems to have reconciled to the fact that if not in U.P., it will gain in strength in the next Lok Sabha. This realisation has taken away some of the urgency the party had displayed earlier to form the government in U.P. "They (the BJP) have decided not to let Mulayam Singh form the government at any cost. Let it be so. Now I will form the government only when I have reduced them to 15 in the Lok Sabha," Mulayam Singh Yadav said, looking rather relaxed. On the basis of the party's performance in the Assembly elections, Mulayam Singh hopes to emerge as a major force in the Lok Sabha. "If we are able to maintain our present performance, we will win at least 40 seats in the Lok Sabha elections (from Uttar Pradesh). The BJP will win 18, the BSP 19 and the Congress three. We are in no hurry to form the government. We have already started our preparation for the next Lok Sabha elections and we will ensure that no government can be formed without our support. Besides, even if we form the government somehow in U.P., it will not last long. It is better for us to stay out of the race and let them (the BJP and the BSP) form and run the government," he said. Mulayam Singh has already begun chalking out the campaign plan for the Lok Sabha elections. The same realisation seems to be guiding the BJP strategy too. The majority opinion in the party to stay out of power for a while is obviously intended to focus on the next general elections. "We anticipate Lok Sabha elections in 2003. If we join hands with Mayawati, it would be disastrous for us. If at all, we should be supporting her on our terms. We can afford to wait. Even if there is no government in Uttar Pradesh, and the next Lok Sabha elections are held under President's Rule, it suits us fine," a senior BJP leader said.
As per the BJP formula, the BSP should agree to support a BJP government, led by Rajnath Singh and in return it could be given some important portfolios in the State and allowed to share power at the Centre. Senior BJP leaders are of the opinion that if this formula succeeds, it would be the best bet for the BJP. "In this way we not only shall form the government in U.P., but would be able to preserve the leadership of Rajnath Singh. We have promoted his leadership at the State level and we do not want to let him go the Kalyan Singh way," a senior BJP leader said. According to him, if a Mayawati-led government is propped up against the wishes of Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra, a sense of frustration could spread among the cadre, which will not be good for the party in the long run. But Mayawati appears to be in no mood to give up her claim.
Statesman News Service
BHOPAL, March 31. — The Madhya Pradesh government will begin allotting land to landless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from Ambedkar Jayanti on 14 April. The allotment will be completed by 31 May.
Land would be made available by reducing the grazing areas. The state government has directed collectors of all the 45 districts to gear up for the campaign to "enable every landless Dalit and tribal family to have their own land for eking out a sustainable livelihood."
Only those Dalit and tribal farmers and agricultural labourers would be considered landless who do not own any land and have been residing for at least 12 years in the state.
The state government has reduced grazing pastures from 7.5 per cent to 2 per cent per village to distribute the available de-reserved land among landless SC/STs farmers and agricultural labourers. This move had made available, according to chief minister Mr Digvijay Singh, about 4 lakh acres of agricultural land for landless Dalits and tribals in the state.
The provisions of this programme stipulate allotment of irrigated land up to one hectare and un-irrigated land up to two hectares to one such family on availability of land. The state government has asked the collectors to remove any encroachments from these lands. The state government has simplified the procedure of land allotment to benefit the concerned, said a government spokesman. Such people would be provided allotment order, loan book, khasra copy, map and other related documents and given possession of land immediately after demarcation on the spot.
The government has scrapped the provision of mandatory requirement of the resolution of the Gram Sabhas for changing the status of surplus land.
The Digvijay Singh government has decided that surplus land even after the distribution of de-reserved grazing land in a village, would be allotted to marginal farmers of these communities, who own barren land up to one hectare or un-irrigated land up to half hectare, in the same village. Top priority would be given to
those owning the smallest plots. Surplus land even after this exercise would be distributed among the landless Dalits and tribals of the adjoining villages. In urban areas, pattas of agricultural land within a radius of five km of a municipal corporation's limits and a radius of 2 km of municipality's limits will be provided to SCs and STs for a period of one year.
The pattas are supposed to be renewed to the same people after the expiry of the term.
By Our Special Correspondent
CHENNAI March 31. Byelections to 107 vacant seats in the rural bodies, including Keeripatti and Pappapatti panchayats in Madurai district where elections were not held for the past seven years, would be held on April 8.
Besides, bypolls to fill up 38 vacant posts in urban bodies including councillors in two Corporation wards, six municipality wards, 29 town panchayat wards and one town panchayat presidentship, would be conducted on April 8.
The State Election Commission, in a release here said, it was ``happy news'' that thanks to steps taken by the Commission and the State administration, Dalits had come forward to file nominations in the reserved Pappapatti and Keeripatti villages. In Melsathambur village in Namakkal district, where no nominations were filed in the October 2001 panchayat elections, Dalits had entered the fray.
No papers filed for 21 ward member posts Our Madurai Staff Reporter reports:
Four candidates are in the fray for the reserved panchayat president posts of Pappapatti and Keeripatti. No one, however, is contesting for the president post of Nattamangalam.
The Madurai district administration, which released the final list of candidates, said no one had come forward to file nominations for 21 ward member posts in Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam villages.
However, one candidate was elected unopposed for the Chittalankudi village panchayat president post. Of the 40 ward member posts in various village panchayats in the district, 15 were elected unopposed. No nomination was received for 23 wards. The two ward member posts in Kuruthur and one each in Karupayoorani and Islani villages in the Madurai East union were also declared unopposed.
In Erkudi Achampathu in the Tiruparankundram union, two candidates were elected unopposed while one was elected unopposed in Iravadanallur. One member each was elected unopposed in Kidaripatti and Kuruvithurai in the Melur and Vadipatti unions.
As many as six candidates were elected unopposed for six wards in Chinnapoolampatti in the Kallupatti panchayat union. The other villages that elected ward members without any opposition included Kuppalnatham (1) in the Sedapatti union, Karisalkalampatti (2) and Chithur (1) in the Kallikudi union.
By S. Dorairaj
TUTICORIN MARCH 30 . Conveying a message of `forget and forgive', the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today handed over relief to Dalit victims of police atrocities at Sankaralingapuram in Tuticorin district in November last. ``Let bygones be bygones. Let us strive for communal harmony so as to fulfil our wish to make Tamil Nadu No.1 State,'' the Chief Minister said, hearing the grievances of different sections over police action and consoling police personnel and their families who were also affected by mob violence.
During her hour-long stay in the remote village, about 70 km from here, she met the Dalits, non-Dalits and police personnel separately and told them that she and her Government would spare no effort at ensuring an atmosphere of peace, safety and security.
Ms.Jayalalithaa, who arrived at Sankaralingapuram around 11.30 a.m., drove straight to the Dalit colony, where the residents showed her damaged articles. The women started wailing even as the elders narrated their tale of woe. The Chief Minister also inspected a couple of houses in the colony allegedly damaged by the police. Ms. Jayalalithaa disbursed a cash relief of over Rs.13 lakhs to 140 Dalits, whose property was damaged. As most of the Dalits were Christian converts, she had a feedback from the victims at a meeting held in the local Roman Catholic church.
Responding to their appeal, the Chief Minister said her Government would sympathetically consider the demand for withdrawal of some cases filed against the Dalits. At the meeting with non-Dalits including Naickers and Chettiars, Ms. Jayalalithaa advised them to open a new chapter in their relations with other sections. A police outpost would be set up at the village . As the non-Dalits claimed that they too had suffered during the violence, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the Government would consider their demand for compensation .