A Madurai-based human rights organisation is fighting to get justice for a 21-year-old Dalit man from Thanjavur who was allegedly stripped naked, dragged, and beaten by a mob at various locations.
Talking to The Logical Indian, A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which works on caste and human rights issues across Tamil Nadu explained that the Dalit man named Rahul was suspected of stealing his employer's money. Rahul, who worked under a sand miner, was beaten up after he demanded his wages.
Rahul hails from a village named Poondi in Thanjavur district, according to the information gathered by the organisation.
Evidence learnt about the incident after several videos of Rahul being brutally beaten up by the mob at various locations surfaced on social media.
He was repeatedly tortured and assaulted on the same day from 7:30 am to 3 pm on February 1, Kathir explained. He was dragged to different locations including the sand miner Vicky's house, a graveyard, and a school where he was allegedly beaten up and tortured. Kathir said that he and his team were able to watch only a few videos. He said Rahul might have been tortured more than what they could actually see in those videos.
The group of 12 to 15 men who beat Rahul had recorded the violence on their mobile phones. According to Kathir, Rahul was stripped naked and beaten up. He also said that Rahul tried to kill himself out of humiliation after the video made rounds on WhatsApp.
Here is one such video which was shared with us by Kathir, where Rahul was beating beaten up.
Police Fail To Act Immediately
Kathir said that Vicky, who accused Rahul of stealing money from him, did not register any complaint with the police, but instead, ill-treated the Dalit man without any evidence. However, Rahul has been claiming that he never stole the money from his employer. He also claimed that the police failed to register a compliant initially when Rahul's father approached them. The complaint was registered later under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment act, 2015.
"Had the compliant been lodged sooner and investigations started immediately, the police might have caught all of the accused and might have reduced some pain that Rahul had to undergo," said Kathir.
"The police have arrested eight of the accused in the matter and are searching for the rest," Kathir added.
He also said that the police wrote the FIR note 'very briefly'. "It was not a detailed FIR explaining all the incidents elaboratively as to what had actually happened to Rahul and how he was tortured. Every incident was in brief. The FIR is not supposed to be like that," said Kathir.
Kathir and his team have written to Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Director General of Police, District Collector etc. seeking various rights for Rahul. "Most of these oppressed people (Dalits) are not aware of their rights or don't know how to fight. Hence, it is our duty to fight for them and make their voices heard."
"We are demanding the police to expedite their inquiry and give 'victim protection' to Rahul. We are also demanding that the police arrest all the men who were involved in this violence against Rahul. The police should nab the absconded men soon," said Kathir.
They have also demanded a compensation of ₹10 lakh for Rahul and have urged the police not to avail bail to the accused at any cost.
Rahul is presently admitted to Thanjavur Medical College Hospital. When Kathir visited the hospital to see Rahul, he explained everything that had happened. His health is reportedly stable now.
Mob Violence Rising In Thanjavur
Kathir explained that mob violence cases are increasing in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts which are situated around Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu. These deltas, he said follow feudal traditions and have recorded a number of such atrocities on Dalits in the past. Recently, another man named Sivakumar was beaten to death after being tied to a tree in Thanjavur, he recollected.
While explaining why such incidents are happening more in Cauvery delta, Kathir referred to Kilvenmani massacre that took place on December 25, 1968, where around 44 Dalits (village labourers) were murdered by a gang, that was allegedly led by their landlords. After the killings, the labourers of Thanjavur formed a union demanding higher wages and better working conditions, while the landlords formed a separate union. This led to a conflict and a boycott by all the labourers.
"Many people in the delta still follow feudal traditions, where they don't allow Dalits inside their homes or touch them. This is one of the reasons why violence against Dalits is still continuing," added Kathir.
Last year, over 15 Dalit panchayat presidents from districts like Cuddalore, Madurai, Salem, Theni, Tiruvallur, Coimbatore, Krishnagiri and others faced harassments where they were forbidden from sitting on the panchayat chairs, stopped from entering their offices etc. However, the accused in only one of 15 instances has been arrested, said Kathir.
Suggesting various measures that the state government should take with regards to the protection of Dalit rights, Kathir said the government should consider conducting grievances redressal meetings with Collectors every month for Dalits. He also said that the government should pass a law against mob violence like in Rajasthan.