After allegations surfaced that the Dalit president of the Therku Thittai panchayat in Cuddalore district, Rajeshwari Saravana Kumar, was forced to sit on the floor at panchayat meetings, allegedly because she is from a Scheduled Caste, the secretary of the panchayat, Sinduja, has been arrested.
The police also arrested Sugumar, a member of ward number 6 in the Mel Bhuvanagiri block in Cuddalore, who had reportedly threatened Rajeshwari at the panchayat meetings.
A case was booked against Sinduja and panchayat vice-president Mohan Raj under Section 3 (1) (m) and (r) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Sinduja was earlier suspended by the Collector following an inquiry. Mohan Raj is still absconding.
This issue, of caste based discrimination, was brought to light when a photo of her sitting on the ground while other members were seated on chairs at a panchayat meeting went viral. The viral image has led to an outrage, prompting authorities to swing into action.
Rajeshwari accused the panchayat members, who belong to the Vanniyar community, of harassment and discrimination based on caste.
The caste Hindu leaders allegedly did not even allow her to hoist the National Flag during the Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations.
The Therku Thittai panchayat has six ward members, including two belonging to the Adi Dravidar community, while the others are caste Hindus.
“I was not allowed to hoist the National Flag during the Republic Day (celebrations) in January. The panchayat vice-president said his father would hoist the flag instead. He and three other ward members, all caste Hindus, insulted me and forced me and the other Dalit ward member, Suganthi, to sit on the floor at meetings, while the rest sat on chairs,” Rajeshwari said, reported The Hindu.
“The Panchayat vice-president used to tell her that she is the only Dalit leader while he has a majority of BC (Backward Class) and MBC (Most Backward Class) members. Rajeshwari won by a huge margin but she was still cornered for being the only Dalit leader. He used to say ‘I have the support of five ward members but you do not have any,’” alleged Saravana Kumar, Rajeshwari’s husband, to The News Minute.
(With inputs from The Hindu, The News Minute)
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