case of casteism has come to light in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district when ‘Dalit’ Anganwadi women were denied work. M Annalakshmi was appointed as an Anganwadi worker in village Valaypatti, she had received an appointment letter for the same from Madurai Collector’s office. She is a scheduled class worker and was assigned the role of a cook and helper at the Anganwadi centre. But she was then transferred to Kilavaneri, a nearby village, the very next day.

“The caste Hindus of the village went to the ICDS office in Tirumangalam talukand said that their children would never eat food prepared by an SC woman”

“The caste Hindus of the village went to the ICDS office in Tirumangalam taluk and said that their children would never eat food prepared by an SC woman,” she has reportedly said. Since she was assigned the role of a cook, the people who complained about Annalakshmi and M Jyotilakshmi working as a cook in Anganwadi said that the presence of these two women itself will pollute the food. Both the women now fear going back home. The district administration, too, fearing backlash from caste Hindus transferred the two women, the very next day. This came as a reverberation of the clash between the caste Hindus and the SCs.

The caste Hindus had stormed the Dalit colony on June 8 and brokethe doors, damaged vehicles and also injured some people. “What saddens me is that I’m not able to work in my own village,” Ms Jyothilakshmi told The Hindu.

Ms Jyothilakshmi also said that she was asked not to visit the Anganwadi on June 4. I went to submit a certificate after a medical examination, ready to begin work. But the officer there told me that several men and women from my village had come to the center opposing our appointment. They had apparently told the officer that they would never touch the food prepared by Dalits,” she said. According to the two women, trouble had already begun earlier when Dalits were not allowed to enter the local Muthalamman temple festival in April. “Young caste Hindu men refused to allow us to even break coconuts from outside,” she said.

Peraiyur DSP T. Mathialagan is currently conducting an inquiry into the matter. Till now, 11 accused have been remanded in judicial custody. The police have registered cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and IPC. Collector (In Charge) S. Shantha Kumar said, “Everyone can go back to their work and this caste issue, as far as the district administration is concerned, is closed.”

As of 2017, Tamil Nadu leads in crimes against Dalits. One out of six cases registered with National Commission for Scheduled Castes is from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Crime against Dalits in Tamil Nadu

As of 2017, Tamil Nadu leads in crimes against Dalits. One out of six cases registered with National Commission for Scheduled Castes is from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Of the nearly 32000 cases registered with the Commission, around 5300 were reported in these places since 2014. Of these, nearly 2000 cases were serious in nature. The state, allegedly, also had not reserved 18% of seats in government and private educational institutes, when the commission looked into the matter.

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