Unable to carry out her duties due to caste discrimination, the Panchayat chief of Kinathukadavu in Coimbatore district has approached the District collector for a solution. Since she was elected to the post, 40-year-old Sundari Thangavel, who belongs to a scheduled tribe community, has allegedly been threatened and verbally abused by a member of the Gounder community named PT Krishnan. She has alleged that he is attempting to use her as a puppet while he controls the Panchayat's activities. PT Krishnan, alleges the Panchayat leader in her petition, even demands bribes to allow Sundari to approve of development works for the four villages that fall under her panchayat.
Speaking to The News Minute, Sundari explains that in the four villages that fall under her leadership, there are close to 300 families from the Scheduled Tribe community. From the first day she took over, Krishnan has allegedly used his caste position to undermine her, she said. Due to the harassment, she approached the District Collector who instructed the Village Administrative Officer to conduct an enquiry. The investigation began on Thursday.
"Krishnan says that because of my caste, I don't know what I am doing and that I have to go through him to do any kind of work. He wants to take away all my responsibilities," she says. "There are nine leaders in our Panchayat and he has bought out three of these leaders. So, to get any work blocked, he uses these people against me. They try to create hurdles for various development projects. If there are bills to be signed off for work to be initiated, he doesn't allow it to proceed if I have decided on it. He says only he can take calls regarding anything to do with the Panchayat," she adds.
In addition to this, she alleged that he verbally abuses her and her husband on the basis of their caste.
"He also demands Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 every time we need to get any bill signed or work initiated," says Sundari. "I initially tried to compromise a little. But I can't work like this anymore," she adds.
Sundari says that both she and Krishnan are affiliated to the AIADMK, but that has not stopped the harassment.
Sundari joins the long list of Panchayat chiefs from oppressed castes who have been facing discrimination since the elections took place last year.