Dalit Panchayat President murdered of caste oppression
The narration of an incident of murder of a Dalit Panchayat President, which poses major challenge to democracy and peace.
In 1993, the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution introduced a new three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in which 30 percent of the seats were reserved for women and Scheduled Cast (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and that to be represented in proportion to their population in a State. The State of Tamilnadu brought out a separate Act in 1994 to implement these provisions.
Experiences from Panchayats reserved for SC/ST and women do not tell a happy ending story. Wide spread violence against the elected members, even murders and manipulative tactics to hold power by the dominant caste are reported from many of the reserved Panchayats of the States of Tamilnadu and Karnataka. The dominant caste’s attitude of discrimination and exclusion on the ground of their caste supremacy amounts in the total denial of both the cherished democratic values and the constitutional guarantee of social justice to the weaker sections of the society. Governments and political parties by and large neglected the issue and shown little interest to resolve these atrocities, but cunningly abuse the conflict situations to gain more political mileage out of it to safeguard their vote banks.
Naklamuthanpatti village is situated in Kuruvikulam Panchayat union, Sankarankovil Taluk in Thirunelveli District of the State of Tamilnadu. It is a prominent village Panchayat consisted of two hamlets Paraipatti and Narasimapuram. The village comes under the jurisdiction of Thiruvenkadam police station. Naidu, Nayakkar and Uppunayakar are the dominant castes of the village. Arunthathiyar, Kulalar, Vannar, Ottar and Pallar are the scheduled castes residing in the village.
In 2001 local body election Naklamuthanpatti Panchayat was under the status of general constituency for women. Ms. Regina Mary W/o Mr. Thirupathi Raja of the dominant Naidu community got elected as Panchayat President during this period. The subsequent local body election was held at 15th October 2006 in which Naklamuthanpatti Panchayat was declared as a reserved constituency for Dalit men. The dominant community took this opportunity to indulge in dubious tactics to cling on to power politics. As a result Thirupathi Raja H/o the former President Regina Mary nominated Mr. Jakkaiyan who belonged to the schedule caste called the Arunthathiyars, to the post of Presidentship. Two other candidates were also in the race that belonged to the scheduled caste and supported by the dominant community. When the election results were declared Jakkaiyan got elected as Panchayat President by a marginal vote. The Panchayat executive committee was consisted of six elected ward members and from among them Thirupathi Raja was nominated and elected as the Vice-President. The turn of the events began here as Thirupathi Raja and Regina Mary started exerting undue powers through manipulative tactics.
The conflict between President and Vice-president
It had been alleged that during her tenure Regina Mary and her husband followed corrupt practices and swindled large amount of money from the Panchayat fund. As per Government directions the ex-president and her husband handed over the Panchayat office key, chequebook and other documents to Jakkaiyan. After resuming his office Jakkaiyan demanded Regina Mary to submit all the accounts which she refused to do. Instead, according to the testimonies of other Panchayat members, Thirupathi Raja offered Rs.10,000/- to Jakkaiyan in order to conceal his wife’s financial misappropriations and fake records. However the correct accounts were found by one of the ward members and disclosed it to other members except Thirupathi Raja. All other five members and the president attempted to pass a resolution to remove Thirupathi Raja from Vice-presidentship and appoint a new person as Vice-president. This did not work out and on the contrary Thirupathi Raja threatened Jakkaiyan either to resign or be a puppet in his hands. Thirupathi Raja continued his manipulative tactics by threatening Jakkaiyan and his family at his residence and many other places. Frightened of the threats posed by Thirupathi Raja, Jakkaiyan filed a petition to the Sub-Inspector of Tiruvankadam Police station on 19th November2006.
The killing on a Wednesday morning
Kalam Network (an NGO based at Tirunelveli)’s report on Jakkaiyan’s murder gives the following details. In the very morning of Wednesday, 22nd November 2006, 1. Jakkaiyan, 2. Mrs.Pappa (A) Arumugam w/o Sakkaiyan, 3. Seenivasan, b/o Jakkaiyan, 4. Moorthy s/o Perumal were casually talking in front of the Panchayat office of Naklamuthanpatti. Thirupathi Raja and his wife Regina Mary came there along with spade handle and stopped him (Jakkaiyan) to stay while he was trying to have a cup of tea. Thirupathi raised his voice, “ you are not obeying me” and hit on Jakkaiyan’s head with the spade handle. Thirupathi had beaten him up once again and Jakkaiyan blocked the blow by his left hand. The left hand was injured and bleeding. The next blow hit on the left side of his head and he raised the last voice, “I was killed” and fell down dead. The above four persons were eyewitnesses of this killing.
At once Pappa and her relative Paramasivan s/o Perumal came to the Tiruvankadam police station and lodged a complaint against Thirupathi and his wife Regina Mary. The Inspector of Police received the complaint and prepared the FIR. The FIR No. is 124/06 date 22.11.06. The case was registered against the accused under the Act IPC section 341, 302 IPC and under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act under section 5(1) XI SC/ST POA Act – 1989 and 3(2) (V) of SC/ST POA Act 1989. After a while the two culprits were arrested and put behind the bars. The case is still under police investigation.
Kalam and the Arunthathiyar Mahasabai organized several protests and agitations demanding speedy legal action and adequate compensation for the family.