Did a Decade-Long Caste Conflict Lead to Double Murder in TN?
There have been several instances of clashes between Vanniyars and Dalits over the last decade.
The brutal murder of two young men – Surya and Arjunan – near Tamil Nadu’s Arakkonam on 7 April has opened old wounds. For Dalit families living in the area, caste discrimination has been an everyday reality for at least a decade, they allege.
“I don’t know why they are discriminating on the basis of caste. We are all humans after all. If either of us get hurt we shed blood, right? If you want to be superior, show that through education or jobs and not by hurting us.”Deepa* (name changed on request), Surya’s close relative
The incident took place at a pani puri stall in Guruvarajapet, which was frequented by members of both communities. The nearby villages of Soghanur and Sembedu are populated by the Dalits and just a few kilometers away is the town of Perumalrajpettai, a Vanniyar community settlement.
The Vanniyars fall under the Most Backward Caste (MBC) category while the Dalits, belonging to the sub-caste Paraiyar, fall under the Scheduled Caste category.
Double Murder That Terrified the Villages
Friends of the victims and political parties including the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) have alleged that at least 20 men of the Vanniyar community were involved in the attack.
Ranipet district Superintendent of police Sivakumar however told The Quint that the murders were the result of a petty quarrel and that there was no caste conflict.
This double murder has left an eerie silence in the villages and residents say they now fear walking past the Vanniyar area, which is the only route to go to the city and their workplaces.
The police have arrested six persons in connection with the murders. This includes - Sathya, Karthi Sounder, Nandakumar, Ajith and Madan.
Surya and Arjunan were known to be the area’s favourites, always “standing up” for their brothers who faced discrimination.
Deepa told The Quint that the two groups have had several altercations in the past, and even when they go to the police station they are often urged to come to an amicable agreement for “the future of the young boys”.
Surya and his brother have been targeted many times for owning their own venture, Deepa recollected. “Surya’s brother has a lighting and sound system unit. There have been many incidents when people from the other community have asked him, ‘Who are you to do work for these events?’. They strongly dislike Dalits having their own business. He had faced threats.”
Several villagers said that discrimination they face has been “normalised”.
“Once I went to someone’s house and asked for water and they gave it to me in a mug from the bathroom. They will definitely not let us inside their homes. And we don’t take that seriously as we accept this as our reality.”Deepa, Surya’s Relative
“These people pour water into the hands of Dalits because they don’t want them to touch their utensils. When well dressed Dalits walk by their area, they discourage it,” said a regional reporter.
The Dalit Tag Never Leaves You
The two communities have schools and graveyards of their own.
“Casual casteism is the order of life here. Separate burial grounds and schools for Dalits and Vanniyars show how no matter what we achieve, we die where we are born. We are still put in the same category and there is no escaping it.”Arivu, Rapper and Lyricist
Das, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader said that he had helped many students get admission in schools and colleges . “Despite their growth, the Dalit caste tag always follows them,” he said.
“So many Dalit students have dropped out of colleges in the locality as they prefer to go to Chennai to escape caste discrimination. We have seen that the other communities don’t really appreciate a Dalit getting an education and having a job,” he told The Quint.
Recalling his campaign days he said, “When I went to distribute election notices to the Vanniyars, many of them didn’t take it from me. When I fell at an old man’s feet to seek his blessings he said, ‘I am Vanniyar. I will never support someone who follows Ambedkar.’ This shows that they favour their caste and don’t even want to hear out a candidate.”
‘We Don’t Want Caste’
The Quint reached out to several regional reporters who said that those from the Vanniyar community have refused to comment on the issue and even blocked their entry into the area.
This story will be updated if and when we receive a response.
“God gave us this life as a gift and six senses to think life through and not behave like animals. We don’t want caste. We don’t want violence. Let us be there for each other. Let my brother be the last.”Deepa, Surya’s Relative
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