It was just another funeral procession in this remote village in Tamil Nadu, except for the route that it had taken. Since there was another procession already using the regular route, they had no option but to opt for another that passed through the neighbouring Muslim locality. However, as the procession entered the Muslim-populated street, some residents protested, which led to a minor clash. The police was called and the matter covered up. Later, the village witnessed some minor skirmishes between the Dalits and Muslims.
The following Saturday morning, when Syed was on the way to his coconut farm, some Dalits told him not to go through their area. This led to some stone throwing and stick fighting. Members of one community barged into houses of the other and set ablaze furniture and electronic items.
Later in the day, Mubarak Ali’s car, Murugan’s motorcycle and Ilangovan’s auto-rickshaw were burnt down. More than 200 policemen then cordoned off the entire village, strictly manning all its entries and exits. The village was closed down to outsiders and Dindigul Range deputy inspector general K Joshi Nirmal Kumar and superintendent M Baskaran inspected the village. A case was registered at the Jayamangalam Police Station.
The locals were reported as saying that the two groups had been harbouring enmity against each other ever since the portrait of VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan was desecrated, while who desecrated the portrait was still unknown.
The incident had happened last week.
A few days ago, in another report from the Farihan village in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, a Dalit girl was reported to have been set on fire by a Muslim youth when she opposed his intent to outrage her modesty. The boy, later on, barged into her house, poured kerosene over her and lit her up with a match. The culprit was caught immediately, thrashed by the locals and handed over to the police. The girl was sent to the BHU hospital. Heavy police deployment in the village has averted any communal clashes.
Late last year, a Dalit girl was raped in a cinema hall in Meerut by two Muslim youths. The victim knew one of the assailants. Apparently, the boy had concealed his religion from the girl, but when the girl came to know of this, she started refusing his advances. Infuriated, he called her over for one last meeting, and raped her along with his friend.
Similar news from other countries has been equally disturbing. Just a couple of months ago, around 500 Hindus, mostly belonging to the Bhil community (Scheduled Tribe) and some other Dalit communities, were forcefully converted into Islam. They were told their women would be raped and murdered otherwise. This was besides the usual conversions that are executed in Pakistan on similar lines.
The stories go on. Similar incidents, with the same community as the perpetrator in most cases, are regularly reported by regional media but suppressed in the English language media of the country — hapless Dalit girls assaulted by boisterous Muslim youths! No wonder when Muslims offered to join in the now infamous Dalit protests last month, a majority of Dalits remained wary of the motive of their Muslim ‘friends’. Out of sheer confusion over how their involvement could influence the protest itself, the Dalit leaders promptly advised their Muslim endorsers to come without their skullcaps.
Under such circumstances, one doubts the bona fides of the ‘leaders’ who have given a call for a unified front of Dalits and Muslims to challenge the ‘Hindutva’ narrative.