A 24-year-old Dalit youth was sexually assaulted and faced verbal abuse based on his caste in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy. The assailants, allegedly in an inebriated state, forced the victim into non-consensual acts before demanding disclosure of his caste identity. The victim, a native of Tenkasi district, was then threatened with lethal weapons, robbed of his belongings, and warned against reporting the incident. Despite the ordeal, the victim managed to file a police complaint.
According to police reports, Vasanth, on a bike, offered the victim a lift to Trichy city, claiming it would facilitate catching a bus to Tenkasi. However, the youth was taken to a house in Irungalur, locked inside, and subjected to the assault by Vasanth and four others. The perpetrators, under the influence of alcohol, threatened the victim to comply with their demands. After learning about the victim’s Dalit identity, they resorted to verbal abuse using caste-based slurs, intensifying the traumatic experience. The assailants then dropped the victim on Trichy main road, issuing threats to deter him from reporting the incident.
The victim, seeking refuge in a nearby tea shop, used a mobile phone to report the crime to the police. Subsequently, he was admitted to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital in Trichy for medical attention. The police have registered a case against the five individuals under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the Arms Act.
This incident adds to a concerning trend of violence against Dalits in Tamil Nadu. In a separate incident, two Dalit youths were attacked on the night of November 16, with their motorbike snatched. When they sought the return of their vehicle the next morning, they were allegedly beaten and subjected to degrading treatment.
Tamil Nadu BJP President Annamalai condemned the escalating violence against Scheduled Castes under the DMK government’s tenure. He accused the government of turning a blind eye to such incidents, attributing it to political motivations. Annamalai urged Chief Minister M K Stalin to take stringent action against the perpetrators, emphasising the need to prevent such crimes in the state.
In another case from November, two individuals from the Thevar community were arrested for assaulting five Scheduled Caste individuals, including a seven-year-old boy, near Perungudi in Madurai district. The incident led to the filing of a case under the IPC and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
In Tamil Nadu, a troubling increase in crimes against Scheduled Castes (SC) has stirred concerns among activists and human rights advocates. The reported incidents encompass heinous acts such as anti-Dalit violence, discrimination, physical assaults, sexual abuses, and assaults, casting a shadow over the state’s legacy of Dravidian movement principles advocating social justice and equality.
Instances of violence against SC individuals have been reported in various districts, particularly in southern regions of the state. Disturbingly, the trend includes incidents such as the discovery of human feces in a water tank supplying drinking water to Dalit homes in Vengaivayal, Pudukottai district, last December. Despite such gruesome acts, arrests have yet to be made.
In August, a Dalit student and his sister faced an attack in Nanguneri, Tirunelveli district, by upper-caste classmates. The assailants subjected the victims to violence, highlighting the persistence of caste-based discrimination and atrocities.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Madurai, citing data obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, disclosed a surge in crimes against Dalits between November 2002 and August of the current year. Disturbingly high numbers were reported in Tirunelveli, Madurai, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, and Ramanathapuram districts. For instance, Tirunelveli recorded 90 cases, followed by Madurai with 115 cases, indicating a distressing prevalence of violence.
The NGO executive director pointed out that Madurai and Pudukottai have been witnessing monthly registrations of 10-12 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Over the past year, nearly 500 cases have been registered statewide, encompassing severe offences like murders, sexual assaults, attempted murders, and property destruction.
Critics emphasise a pattern of bias and inefficiency within the police force when dealing with cases involving Dalit victims. Additionally, the rise in violence is attributed to the operation of caste-based outfits, which seemingly operate with impunity.
Various voices, including political leaders and activists, have raised concerns over the escalating violence. Annamalai criticised the DMK government for failing to address these issues and urged the Chief Minister to take strict action against the criminals.
The situation has prompted demands for comprehensive measures, including stricter legal provisions, increased law enforcement presence, and enhanced efforts to curb caste-based violence. As incidents of violence against Scheduled Castes continue to rise, activists stress the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable communities and holding perpetrators accountable.
The rising instances of violence against Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu have prompted concerns and calls for immediate intervention to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable communities. The incidents highlight the need for comprehensive measures to address social prejudices and prevent atrocities against marginalised groups.