By R. Ilangovan
Madurai Aug. 3. The 27-year-old Dalit woman, Azhagammal, of Padaminchi hamlet near Ulagampatti village in Sivaganga, lives in fear. Surviving a brutal police assault and harassment at the hands of a caste Hindu-dominated `oor' (local) panchayat, Azhagammal, who works as a noon meal worker, has been forced to shift her residence to Tiruchi, where she lives under the protection of a group of women activists.
Trouble began for her when she sought a divorce from her unemployed husband two years ago. The panchayat opposed it, but she obtained divorce through court. Stung by it, the panchayat ordered her to hand over her child to her husband.
When she refused to do so, she was ostracised by the village. The panchayat was also opposed her attempts to bring agriculture coolies from a nearby village to till her lands.
Irked by her "impertinent" behaviour, it slapped a fine of Rs. 51,000 to "teach her a lesson.'' When she expressed her inability to pay, she was ordered to prostrate before the panchayat members with a "concession" that reduced the fine by Rs.1,000 for each prostration. Succumbing to pressure, she prostrated 47 times to reduce the fine to Rs. 4,000.
When Azhagammal reported the matter to the police, they refused to act. She, then, referred the matter to the District Collector. The administration ordered an RDO enquiry under Sec. 107 of Cr.PC. Warrants were issued to all, including Azhagammal.
But the decision to approach the higher officials annoyed the local police. On July 7, plainclothes policemen descended on her house on the pretext of executing a warrant under Sec. 107 of Cr.PC. Azhagammal claimed that she was beaten inside the house. With her dress in shreds, four policemen allegedly dragged her out of the house and beat her with a log till she lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she found herself in the Ulagampatti police station.
After nearly five hours, two women constables arrived on the scene and escorted her to the Ponnamaravathi Government hospital where she was given first aid. She was produced before the Devakottai RDO, who instructed her to meet him in August.
Fearing a threat to her life, she approached the Women's Legal Aid Centre of the All-India Democratic Women's Association at Tiruchi, which admitted her in the Government General Hospital for "multiple injuries on her thigh and back".
After nine days of treatment, she was discharged.
``The police need not use force while executing a warrant under Sec. 107 Cr.PC. Petitions to the Chief Minister and the Chairman of State Human Rights Commission have already been faxed,'' says Arjunan, Sivaganga District CPI (M) secretary.
The SP of Sivagnaga, V.A.Ravikumar, said a departmental inquiry was on. The DIGs of PCR Act and Human Rights also held enquiries, he added.
Police resort to lathicharge in Hassan
DH News Service
HASSAN, Aug 6
The police resorted to mild lathi-charge today to disperse a crowd which started throwing stones in protest against the desecration of Dr B R Ambedkarís statue in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
In the process, an autorickshaw was damaged and three persons were injured, eye-witnesses said. The protesters took out a demonstration from Siddayyanagar here to N R Circle and held a road blockade there. Demanding that a bronze statue of Dr Ambedkar be installed in the City, they condemned the anti-Dalit policies of the government.
Dalit leaders held a road blockade for nearly four hours near Shantigram on the B M National Highway. Dalit activists in the Ambedkar extension of Belur town also held a protest to condemn the incident.
Yesterday, tension prevailed in Hassan city following the desecration of the statue. The statue was damaged after the miscreants allegedly pushed it down from the pedestal.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Commissioner L K Atheeq said as soon as he received the news, he rushed to the spot and inspected the area. Since the statue was kept on a pedestal, it was easy for the miscreants to push it down, he said and assured that the guilty would be put behind the bars as soon as possible.
As soon as the news of the desecration spread, various Dalit organisations, activists of Rajya Raitha Sangha and the Dr Rajkumar Abhimani Sangha staged protests and road blockades. The protesters who arrived in a procession to the deputy commissionerís office requested him to nab the miscreants. Superintendent of Police M Nanjundaswamy assured that the miscreants would be arrested at the earliest and the inquiry would be conducted by the deputy superintendent of police himself.
DECISION: Meanwhile, the decision to install a bronze statue of Dr Ambedkar was taken at the deputy commissionerís office premises. A meeting of Dalit and progressive organisations and other officials, which was presided over by Mr Atheek, unanimously agreed to provide suitable protection to the statue and lay a garden around it.
Meanwhile, tension prevailed for some time when a group protested that the space identified for installing the statue was not suitable. Although many a Dalit leaders accepted the space allocated, one group staged a dharna till evening demanding that the statue be installed at the DCís office premises.
Protesting against this incident today, the leaders of many Dalit organisations, along with the members, staged a rasta roko agitation at the Jagat Chowk. They demanded the immediate arrest of the miscreants involved in the Hassan incident. They also demanded adequate protection for the members of the Dalit community in the State. They also demanded that stringent laws should be framed to punish those who desecrate Ambedkar statues.