Since its formation, ATP is working for the development of arunthathiyar community. Today, ATP has grown into an organization that strives to bring forth the struggles of arunthathiyar community. ATP is working in the midst of the people with branches spread across in various villages and town of Tamil Nadu. Its significant achievements to date are:
Fight against atrocities:
Atrocities against Arunthathiyars are a common reminder of social inequality. ATP constantly protests these events, no matter where they happen in Tamil Nadu. Atrocities against Arunthathiyars occur in a vicious cycle. Due to awareness created by ATP and when Arunthathiyars protest against inequality and refuse to perform debasing jobs that are forced on them by upper caste (like removing dead animals and scavenging) Arunthathiyars are subjected to atrocities. When such incidents occur ATP not only protests, it aids the affected in fighting for justice and works in the rehabilitation of Arunthathiyars in the community. A few in many of these atrocities are narrated here:
UDUMALAIPETTAI –SALARAPATTI ATROCITY:
Salarapatti is a village in Udumalapettai town municipality. There are around 100 Arunthathiyar and 400 Vanniyar families live in the village. Like any other west districts of Tamil Nadu, Salarapatti also has practices of untouchability against Arunthathiayars; like two tumbler system, prohibition of entry into temples, government community halls and others.
Events leading to the incident:
Similar to petitions given against atrocities in various regions of Tamil Nadu, ATP submitted a petition to the police in Salarapati also, with the information on the shops that practise two tumbler system in and around the region. When police asked the shops to avoid such practices, the shops were closed in the region by the Vanniyar community. When a shop was reopened with a common tumbler system (by a Vanniyar community owner) the shop was destroyed by his own community. Due to this incident there remained unease between the two communities. Udumalai collector intervened to reinstate peace and harmony between the communities, but it was futile as Vanniyar community decided to social boycott the Arunthathiyars; as a result they were denied basic amenities like water, groceries, milk and were not given any jobs within the region.
On 18th February 2008, ATP organized a protest and road blockade movement against this social boycott and untouchability practices against Arunthathiyars in Salarapati at the central bus stand in Udumalai. Udumalai Collector Mr. Chandabose and Udumalai Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mr. Eshwaran convened a peace meeting between the communities and promised to take action. The same evening around 4PM, the enraged Vanniyar community people surrounded two Arunthathiyar motorists and attacked them indiscriminately. Some of the nearby Arunthathiyars saved them from being brutally killed and within hours of the incident, hundreds of men and women of Vanniyar community marched towards the Arunthathiyar houses and torched the huts and damaged the houses by throwing stones. Around 20 huts and houses were damaged. Further many Arunthathiyars were attacked and beaten indiscriminately; none were spared, from a 5 year old boy Ganesh to 80 year old lady Velammal had to bear the brunt of the atrocity caused to them just because they were Arunthathiyars!
On 19th February 2008, Mr. Athiyamaan (Founder President, ATP) and Mr. Susi Kalaiyarasan of Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi (VSK) reached the Government Hospital of Udumalai to visit the wounded. They were denied entry into the city by police and hence ATP and VSK road blocked the Udumalai - Palani highway and demanded entry to visit the wounded.
Around 170 participants along with Mr. Athiyamaan and Mr. Susi Kalayarasan belonging to both ATP and VSK were arrested and lodged in a hall. After few hours into the arrest only 8 members along with both the leaders were taken into the village in police van to visit the affected people.
Only when the leaders entered the region many shocking truths about the incident came to light. Like the abetment of police during the incident. Even though police were being employed for protection they did not stop the mob, instead they aided them with providing their “lathis” to beat the Arunthathiyars. Later it was stated by the DSP that the police force were insufficient. Furthermore when the Vanniyar mob had crossed the school that was present there, they had shouted “Sakiliya pasangala veliye anupu” calling to bring out the Arunthathiyar children to beat. The teachers in the school Instead of protecting the children sent the Arunthathiyar children out to the mercy and the long brutal hands of the mob. Those who were wounded in the incident were not allowed to go to the hospital. Only after the interference of the leaders around 9 of them were allowed to be taken to the hospital. Fear and trepidation had gripped the Arunthathiyar community in Salarapatti due to this incident.
Post atrocity events:
Following the incident on 20th February 2008 all pro-dalit organizations gathered together in Coimbatore and formed a “Caste abolition coordinative committee” and passed resolutions to protect the vulnerable and to take action against the guilty.
Various resolutions were passed, like pressing for action against the police and headmaster of the school and officials who failed in their duties. To organize a grand protest against the atrocity, which was held on 5th March 2008. Also, ATP distributed basic needs like rice and pulses to the affected people.
Today the atrocities have not been completely eradicated from the region. Ironically the government officials, who are responsible to maintain equality in the land, accede to their inability and hide in the garb of social practice and culture.
Sitrarsan is an arunthathiyar who fell in love with Gomathi, a gounder from upper caste. Due to the resistance in their affair from Gomathi’s side, they eloped and got married. The couple had a child and was a happy family until July 2008.
They had been living in hiding until a death in Sitrarasan family made the couple to return to their village. Casteism had the upper hand in the life of this unfortunate couple. The upper caste gounders beat and killed Sitrarsan. Caste barbarianism shattered the dream and happiness of love. With one stroke caste fever destroyed the basic foundation of human life – a family.
ATP along with the support of VSK and DK organized a protest on 23rd July 2008 in front of Red Cross building, Coimbatore demanding action and justice against the inhuman atrocity to Sitrarasan.
SEGUDANTHALI MURUGESAN MURDER:
Segudanthali Murugesan was a poor laborer who was killed brutally and unjustly by the upper caste called "Goundars" just because he and his "pregnant" wife sat near the seat where a "gounden" was seated in a public bus. This was regarded a disgrace and an excess by the gounden as an outcaste sat near him. On the same night the enraged "Gounden" went to the house of Murugesan with a mob and looted the house and tortured the family members by verbally and physically abusing them. Even his pregnant wife was not spared the atrocity. Like any other atrocities on out caste people, police were delinquent to take any action. Following the incident ATP took the issue and about 300 ATP members along with other Arunthathiyar organizations conducted a demonstration and were arrested demanding action against the culprits. Following the agitation a police case was registered and it was proceeding in favor of the affected Murugesan.
The Gounders threatened him to withdraw the case. But Murugesan was undeterred and said to them that it was a matter of the dignity of his people and his untouchable society and refused to withdraw the case. Finally he was brutally beaten and killed on 17th November, 1999 in Coimbatore district Tamil Nadu. Following the killing ATP took action which resulted in life imprisonment for two of the accused. Unfortunately the accused appealed in the high court and were released.
Thus Segudanthali Murugesan sacrificed his life in the fight for self respect of the Arunthathiyar community. This incident was unlike any other atrocity. The raw cruelty and the loss of life in the name of caste were unbearable for ATP. It was a turning point in their functions, as it reinforced the indispensability to the fight against the injustice and atrocities waged against the community. Even to date it reminds the divide and the evil that persists among society in the name of caste.
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