Salem: The beheading of a teenage Dalit by a 26-year-old upper caste neighbour for allegedly turning down his sexual advances has sent shock waves across Tamil Nadu. The incident, in which S Rajalakshmi was murdered in her own home by P Dinesh Kumar occurred in Thalavaipatti village, near Aathur in Salem district.
Police arrested Kumar and registered a case against him under Section 302 and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO). Following pressure from political parties like VCK (Viduthalai Siruthai Katchi)"a Dalit party"and NGOs like Evidence (who fight for humans rights of oppressed communities), another case was registered against Kumar under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act Wednesday.
Protesting against the killing, women and students took to the streets Wednesday and played the parai, a flat, drum-like instrument largely played by the socially-oppressed communities, in Chepauk area of Chennai. They demanded a speedy probe by the police and to raise awareness about the gruesome nature of the crime. Several activists participated in it: Professor Deepak, president of the 3 December 3 movement and disability rights advocate, and activists Radhika Ganesh and Semmalar, film directors Ameer, Karu Pazhaniappan and Balaji Sakthivel, deputy general secretary of Viduthalali Siruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Vanniarasu, and Kathir, executive director of Evidence.
Speaking about the issue, Kathir alleged that both the government and media have turned a blind eye because the victim was a Dalit. Kathir added that her cause would have drawn attention of the media and the State if she'd been an IT employee or resident of a cosmopolitan city such as Chennai or New Delhi. Till date, neither the district collector, nor the superintendent of police have visited the girl's home, Kathir claimed.
Kathir accused Chief Minister E Palaniswami of inaction and said leadership is unaware of statistics relating to victims of similar crimes. "Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, shamelessly, said the guilty will be punished," said Kathir. "The police are only trying to portray the accused as a mentally unstable person. I do not know if the chief minister, who has not visited the girl's family and keeps mum, is aware of the fact that he is the chairperson of the state-level vigilance and monitoring committee for the (SC and ST) Prevention of Atrocities Act. A case must also be registered against the chief minister under the Prevention of Atrocities Act."
Meanwhile, director-cum-actor Ameer said the media needs to give such incidents the proper attention. "The media focuses on incidents such as Tamil actor Sivakumar snatching a cellphone from a fan's hands or the plagiarism row surrounding the AR Murugadoss movie Sarkar and such incidents are forgotten. The media should take up this issue until society witnesses a change."
"Only in this state do we see a chief minister maintaining silence over such an incident, while other statesmen celebrate the high court verdict regarding disqualification of 18 MLAs." he said. "Neither the district collector, the police commissioner, nor the MLA of the constituency have taken responsibility," Ameer stated, referring to the ST/SC atrocities committee that is supposed to report directly to the chief minister, but which has not been functioning.
District Collector Rohini Bhajibhakare said that the state government will soon give the victim's family an initial compensation of Rs 4,12,500. Moreover, steps have been taken to provide counselling to the mother of the slain teenager, who witnessed her daughter's murder, Bhajibhakare added. "Legal action is being taken against the accused. There is no political intervention in this case," she said, adding that steps are also being taken to detain him under the Goondas Act.
Meanwhile, Rajalakshmi's sister Arul Jyothi alleged that Kumar's wife Saradha and brother Sasi Kumar are connected to the murder and the police has not carried out a thorough investigation. She said that though several days have passed since the murder, the collector has not visited their village. She also demanded the arrest of Saradha and Sasi Kumar.