Caste discrimination practised against Dalits does not spare even panchayat presidents, reveals a study conducted in select districts of Tamil Nadu.
The study conducted by Evidence, a Madurai-based organisation, in 213 panchayats across 12 districts in the State has come up with its findings on myriad forms of discrimination experienced by Dalits under various categories.
The survey was held in Madurai, Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Sivagangai, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Salem, Namakkal, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Coimbatore and Tirupur.
Forty-five panchayat presidents from nine districts have given testimonies of discrimination, the survey reports. The discrimination takes the form of demand for appointment of Caste Hindu writer, refusal to cooperate with the panchayat president, obstructionist tactics by the Caste Hindu Ward members and panchayat vice-president to stall conduct of affairs and harassment of women panchayat presidents.
The 198-page report reveals an exhaustive account of various forms of discrimination and how they assume universality under certain categories. These include discrimination in temples, atrocities against Dalit women and discrimination in processions, burial of the dead and in offering services such as hair dressing and laundry to the Dalits.
With a few exceptions, almost all villages witness such discrimination.
Discrimination in temples varies from restrictions on entry to bar on touching the temple car rope and participation in festivities or allowing processions to go through Dalit colonies.
According to the report, 104 villages out of the total villages surveyed recorded the practice of two-tumbler system, revealing 49 per cent prevalence. Among them, 14 out of 22 villages in Coimbatore, 14 out of 24 villages in Dindigul, 13 out of 21 in Salem, 13 out of 17 villages in Virudhunagar, 11 out of 17 villages in Thanjavur and seven out of 13 villages in Madurai, recorded the practice.
In Nagapattinam, the study carried out in 16 villages in Vedaranyam reveals the prevalence of two tumbler system in Kodiakkarai, Vedananagar, Ayyakaranpulamirandamsethi, and Siriyankadu.
Of the categories, discrimination was negligible only in Government Hospitals and PHCs.