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Statements

Butchery Of Dalits In Paramakudi

By Dr Anand Teltumbde

(A Press Note for the Press Meet on 4 October 2011 at Chennai Press Club)

The news of police firing on Dalits, congregated at Paramakudi to observe the 54 th anniversary of the martyrdom of their leader Emmanuel Sekaran, killing six of them and injuring scores of them, just within four months from Ms J Jayalalitha regaining her power, shocked the entire nation. The Tamilnadu based Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties took an initiative to constitute an all India team to do the fact finding into the incident. Accordingly a team comprising Priyadarshini of Democratic Students Union, New Delhi; Lakshmi Prasanna of Caste Annihilation Liberation Front; Advocates Murugan and Kesavan and S. Gopal of Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties, and Dr Anand Teltumbde of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai visited Paramakudi, Manjoor, Keelakodumbaloor, Sadayaneeri, and Veerambal; Patam, Puliyur, Chintamani Junction; Apollo hospital in Madurai; met with eye witnesses, victims' families, injured persons and state authorities—district collectors of Ramnad and Madurai districts; RDO and Tehsildar, Paramakudi over the two days, i.e., 2 nd and 3 rd October 2011. Taking stock of all the facts, the committee has come to a conclusion that the police action was not only unprovoked but was rather preplanned to serve the larger political interests of the ruling party.

The facts of the case are simple enough. Since there are a couple of good videos available of the entire episode, they could be even treated as incontrovertible. Despite this the incident is largely projected in the media as per the police version. In the morning of 11 th September people began gathering at Paramakudi like previous years. The administration had taken usual steps to divert traffic from Madurai to Ramnad through the bypass road. The festive mood of the gathering that was swelling with time at the Five Cross Road at Paramakudi junction was usual. Everything was usual as in previous years but for the crowd that has been growing over the last 50 odd years and the disproportionately big police posse with all its paraphernalia. There was nothing untoward until suddenly police burst into action at around 11.30 am with lathi charge, pushing people towards Mudukullatur road. The people had retreated but were still chased by the police, which enraged people and began throwing stones at police. Suddenly anti-riot armored vehicle –Vajra, was brought in and police began firing on the crowd. All the people who died of gun shots and injured in firing were hit far above the waist. The situation seemingly was brought under control within an hour or so. By then four people had been killed and several injured. Police did not take care of the dead or wounded. Many people who survived said they were carried by their friends to the hospital.

Surprisingly in the evening after 3 pm, the police again went berserk picking up people randomly from the junction up to the railway crossing, which is half a kilometer away from the scene. They picked up some 18 youth, brought them to the police van and beat so brutally that two people died there itself. Others were beaten in the van as well as Ilayangudi police station to have multiple fractures and broken skulls. Most were left at Ilayangudi Government Hospital where they remained untreated before they were taken to other hospitals after hours. Many injured in earlier lathi charge and bullet injuries were carried by their friends and acquaintances and did not figure in any records.

At Madurai, there was not any iota of an excuse for the police to use weapon but still they fired upon people grievously injuring two students. The people of Puliyur had started in an open lorry basically because the buses they paid advance to had backed out reportedly at the instance of the police. They were stopped at the Chintamani junction, barely two kilometers away from the village. The altercation ensued. In meanwhile a Tata Sumo carrying the people of Patam village followed but it was also stopped for no reason. Soon there arrived Gajendran, a police inspector and as he came out of his jeep he fired at the crowd with his service revolver felling two boys instantly, one who came in the Tata Sumo and other who had followed on his bike. It is sheer luck that the latter survived as the bullet had passed through almost touching his spine piercing through his lungs and then though his right arm. In order to justify the police action, the eye witnesses told us that the police had broken the windowpanes of some of the vehicles standing there and slapped ridiculous cases on two boys of molesting a lady constable, incidentally belonging to a Dalit caste.

The police version that the mob turned violent falls flat in the face of facts. As a face saving device, the government announced a judicial investigation by a retired single judge Mr Sampath, who however was greeted by black flags by the people. It however served the purpose to evade questions for the administration. While the collector, Ramnad reeled off the police version, the collector, Madurai admitted that he was not even informed of the firing incident by the police and assured to look into it. The brutality with which the police acted showed that the entire episode was preplanned to curb the Dalit assertion under the guise of the guru pooja. The statement of the chief minister that it was a clash between two communities is ominous and smacks of the state plan to polarize people. It is to the credit and wisdom of the people that they have not succumbed to this intrigue.

We summarize our observations as follows:

  • There was no justification whatsoever for the police action both at Paramakudi as well as Madurai. Both the actions were illegal, and display of police highhandedness.
  • Whatever agitation that the administration and media speaks of was the consequence and not the cause of the police action.
  • It is an open fact that the Thevar community wanted to stop the Dalits' guru pooja assuming the same stature as theirs and apparently the incident supported their plan.
  • The administration had mobilized huge police force with an excuse of a murder of a student that took place in Palla-Pachery village (about 30 kms from Paramakudi) on 9 th September. In the context of the history of such murders every year, this was also not an uncommon occurrence.
  • The police blatantly violated their own Manual not following the procedures for opening fire. There was not only no warning before the fire, they fired to kill.
  • The brutal manner in which the police behaved in the evening of 11 th September will shame humanity anywhere. They had simply beaten people to death.
  • To cap it all, the Police have raided many villages unnecessarily and arrested over 500 people, who are still languishing in jails.

Demands

  • The state police has completely lost moral right to investigate into this case and hence the case be handed over to the CBI for investigation.
  • The police responsible for the criminal act of killing and beating innocent people should be charged under the Atrocity Act as well as for the murder under IPC. Some names that prominently figure are: M/s Senthilvelan (DCP), Sandip Mittal (IG), Elangovan (DSP), Siva kumar (PI), Gajendran (PI), Shanmuganathan (SI)
  • Pending investigation, the above and other officials involved in the process of granting permission for fire (such as Siva Kumar, Tehsildar, Paramakudi ) should be summarily suspended.
  • All the arrested people should be released forthwith.
  • All the false cases foisted on people in this episode should be dropped.
  • The relief of Rs 1 lakh announced by the government to the deceased is ridiculous. Since the state has killed or maimed people for no reason, the state should compensate the families for the loss of potential earning of the dead. It should buy them annuities worth minimum Rs 5000 per month for 40 years.
  • All injured people should be given Rs 1 lakh as compensation besides the reimbursement of their medical expenses.
  • The coming state sponsored Thevar jayanthi is surely to repeat police atrocities on Dalits. The government should ensure that Dalits are not harassed.
  • The government support to certain community's ‘guru pooja' is at the root of this and other such problems. It is unbecoming of a secular state to do so. We condemn the state behavior and demand it withdraws from such indulgence.

Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer, political analyst and civil rights activist with Committee for Protection of Democractic Rights, Mumbai