Dalits forced to "drop" dead-bodies after denied access to crematorium
It's 2019 and caste discrimination is still alive and kicking in India. We were reminded of the same once again, after a discomforting case was reported from Tamil Nadu. Reportedly, Dalit villagers in Vaniyambadi taluk, Vellore have been forced to "drop" dead-bodies of their relatives from a 20-feet high bridge, as upper-caste Hindus don't allow them to "travel through their lands". Has everyone's conscience died?
The discrimination got attention after a video went viral on social media. In the disturbing video, a deceased was seen being lowered from atop a bridge as a couple of people waited on the "other side". The body was tied to a cradle and kept in place with ropes. During the entire process, flowers and other items showered on the body fell.
The deceased was identified as N Kuppan, a resident of Adi Dravidar colony. Notably, Dalits are called Adi Dravidars in the area. Kuppan died in a road accident and after an autopsy, his body was handed over to his family. When his relatives started his funeral procession, they had to follow the humiliating path, just like other people of their community.
Reportedly, after the construction of Arasalanthapuram-Narayanapuram bridge, some members of upper castes encroached the land next to it. Not only this but they, namely Vellala, Gounders and Vanniyars, also asked Dalits to not cross their farmlands to reach their crematorium on the banks of Palar river. Hence, Dalits have been forced to drop bodies in this manner for cremation.
"When we tried to take my uncle's body through the land strips, watchmen guarding it refused us entry. Fearing clash, villagers used a cradle to drop the body from the bridge and cremated it," said Vijay, 21-year-old nephew of Kuppan.
Meanwhile, another Dalit said this has been going on for some time now. He said there is no space in the village, prompting them to perform last rites at river banks. "As we have been denied entry, we are using cradles to lower the bodies from the bridge. Over the past four years, we cremated four bodies like this," the person said.
Meanwhile, Dalits said they haven't faced any threats but want the administration to remove encroachments. However, Priyanka Pankajam, Sub-Collector, Tirupathur, said no one has filed a complaint and they learned of the incident on Wednesday itself. "I have ordered Adi Dravidar Welfare Tahsildar to file a report on this incident. After receiving the report, we will initiate stringent action," she added.