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Caste discrimination at I-Day function in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai

The Times of India logo The Times of India 15-08-2022 Padmini Sivarajah
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CHENNAI: As the nation celebrated 75 years of independence on Monday and many elected representatives hoisted the national flag in their respective local bodies — mostly in government schools — Tamilarasan, the president of Senthangudi panchayat in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai district, a dalit, went home disappointed over not getting his rightful honour of hoisting the Tricolour at the local government school.

Non-dalits in the village scuttled his chance and instead made him hoist the flag at the panchayat office, which reported poor attendance. All district collectors across the state, however, claimed the national flag was hoisted by the 12,600-odd respective presidents of village panchayats without any problem. Around noon on Monday, collectors sent compliance reports to chief secretary V Irai Anbu, who had directed them to ensure not a single instance of caste discrimination against dalits occurs in the national flag hoisting ceremony on I-Day.

The issue of caste discrimination against dalit panchayat chiefs was flagged by Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), an NGO, which came out with a survey report on the social malice last week. It said presidents of 20 village panchayats were not allowed to hoist the national flag in the past and did not have chairs to sit in their offices or access to official files.

“The headmaster of the government school, Manimuthu, invited me to the function at the school. But when I went there, Manimuthu himself hoisted the flag. They invited me to just humiliate me,” Tamilarasan said.

TNUEF state president T Chellakannu said people of the Kallar community had threatened to block traffic if Tamilarasan hoisted the national flag.

However, among the dalit presidents who proudly hoisted the flag on Monday is V Amrutham, president of Athupakkam panchayat in Thiruvallur district. After she had a rehearsal of hoisting the national flag on Sunday in the presence of Irai Anbu, a joyous Amrutham, dressed in a new saree, hoisted the Tricolour on Monday.

In Pudukottai district, dalit presidents of Manjanviduthi and Senthangudi panchayats — both in Thiruvarankulam panchayat union — faced resistance from non-dalits in hoisting the Tricolour. The two villages had figured on the list of 20 panchayats flagged by TNUEF. As the issue was taken up with the district administration and police, Suresh Kanna, president of Manjanviduthi, hoisted the flag at the local school under police protection.

Tamilarasan, however, failed to get timely help from the administration. “The headmaster of the government school, Manimuthu, invited me to the function at the school. But when I went there, Manimuthu himself hoisted the flag. They invited me to just humiliate me,” he said. TNUEF state president T Chellakannu said people of the Kallar community had threatened to block traffic if Tamilarasan hoisted the national flag.

Meanwhile, Pudukottai district collector Kavitha Ramu informed the chief secretary that Tamilarasan had hoisted the flag in the panchayat office and was honoured at the I-Day event at the local school. The headmasters of schools were asked to hoist the flags as per the instructions of the commissioner of school education, she said in her report, in an apparent effort to deflect attention from the issue.

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