Tension in Karur village as Dalit man dies during protest

Villagers were seeking pathway to graveyard

Tension gripped Vedichipalayam near Karur on Monday after a 43-year-old man belonging to the Scheduled Caste died at the graveyard in the village, where a group was staging a novel protest of ‘residing at the graveyard’ for obstructing a pathway to carry the dead.

According to sources, five years ago a few persons bought a piece of land on the pathway, which was being used by the Dalits to carry bodies to their exclusive graveyard. This had created discontent among the Dalits as they had to wade through a field to reach the graveyard for the last five years. The Revenue authorities allegedly expressed inability in solving the issue by claiming that the pathway was owned by two individuals and there was no such [common] path in the Revenue records.

Urging the authorities to ‘retrieve the pathway’ residents of the Adi Dravidar Street in Vedichipalayam, including women and children, began a ‘live in’ protest at the graveyard on Sunday evening. Some of them ate dinner and slept at the graveyard. On information, the revenue and police officers rushed to the spot and urged them to withdraw the protest. But they did not budge.

The officials resumed negotiation on Monday. While the parleys were on, S. Velusamy, a painter, who was among the protesters, collapsed, causing tension at the protest site. On seeing him swoon, fellow protesters and officials tried to revive him. Velusamy was immediately rushed to the Government Medical College Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The body was subsequently shifted to the mortuary for autopsy.

“We were forced to undertake the novel protest as a last resort as our repeated petitions evoked no response. It has ultimately claimed a life. We are shattered,” said M. Chinnaponnu, a protester and neighbour of Velusamy.

An agitated Velusamy was believed to have entered into a heated argument with the Manmangalam revenue officials overnight when they had urged the protesters to give up the agitation.

Meanwhile, Collector T. Prabhu Shankar and Superintendent of Police P. Sundaravadivel visited the village and held negotiations with the protesters. Upon the Collector’s promise, the protesters agreed to call off the agitation temporarily. Shortly after the visit, earth movers were pressed into service and a mud road was formed connecting Vedichipalayam and the graveyard.

Later, the body of Velusamy was handed over to his relatives and it was taken in a procession through the newly laid path amid tight security for performing last rites.

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