Dalits in Vengavayal allege it was anything but Samathuva Pongal
Dalits in the village allege that while members of Mutharaiyar and Agamudayar communities attended the ‘Samathuva Pongal’ event they did not eat the cooked Pongal.
Dalits in Vengavayal in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district were left disappointed after the people from dominant castes failed to ‘wholeheartedly’ participate in ‘Samathuva Pongal’ celebrated on January 17. ‘Samathuva Pongal’ (Pongal celebration which unites people regardless of their communities and castes) was scheduled to be celebrated in Ayyanar temple, which was opened for Dalits on December 27 last year, to unite the people from Agamudayar, Mutharaiyar, and Dalit communities. The celebration was seen as significant against the backdrop of inhumane caste crime in which an overhead potable water tank used by Dalits was found to have been contaminated by human excreta in December 2022.
“Women belonging to Mutharaiyar and Agamudayar attended this event. But very few men from the two communities participated. Nobody was willing to eat the Pongal delicacy that was prepared at the function,” alleged a Dalit resident from Vengavayal. The event was attended by Environment Minister Siva V Meyyanathan, Law Minister Regupathy and Minister for Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare N Kayalvizhi Selvaraj, Pudukkottai District Collector Kavita Ramu and Gandharvakottai MLA M Chinnadurai, who belongs to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) apart from party functionaries of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
The residents also alleged that minister Meyyanathan did not visit the Dalit colony in Vengavayal. “Even for discussions related to the Samathuva Pongal celebrations, he stayed in the Elementary school in Vengavayal. He never visited our village and held no discussions with our community members. He addressed the press and left,” said another Vengavayal resident. People TNM spoke to said they did not want to reveal their identities.
Dalits in Vengavayal are disheartened because the government failed to handle the issue efficiently. They were also not keen on celebrating ‘Samathuva Pongal’. “Who has asked them to arrange the Samathuva Pongal? All we need is justice. This is the third time they asked us to participate in the ‘Samathuva Pongal’ in the span of 20 days. Right after the Dalits’ entry to the Ayyanar temple located in Eraiyur village, Pudukottai Collector facilitated one Pongal event, on December 28. Two days later, lawyers from the Pudukottai court came and arranged one ‘Samathuva Pongal’ in order to make peace. But nobody from the dominant castes was willing to happily participate in these functions,” said a resident from Vengavayal.
People from the Agamudayar and Mutharayar castes were asked to bring rice on behalf of their community. “Dalit community members also brought rice and mixed it with rice from two other communities and prepared Pongal. But what is the point of celebration if they don’t eat the Pongal, even though every minister and higher official in the function eats it without having any issue?” he further said.
On the floor of the Assembly, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin said all measures have been taken to safeguard the interests of Dalits in Vengavayal. But Dalits in the village were questioned and asked why they mixed the excreta in the water tank which traumatised them further. Dalit rights activists are also disappointed with the police inquiry as no arrests have been made so far. The case was transferred to CB-CID on January 14. Earlier, the case was being investigated by a 11-member police team, who allegedly tried to frame the victims.
Five Dalit children of Vengavayal village in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district fell ill and were hospitalised on December 24, The doctors who treated the children alerted the villagers to possible contamination of the water. To their great shock, they discovered that the drinking water source of the Dalit families had been contaminated with human excreta. The tank was cleaned with bleach on December 26, and pipe connections to the houses were replaced two weeks later.
Courtesy : TNM
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