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Caste atrocities and atrocities against minorities and the marginalized have been an unfortunate reality of Indian society. Adivasi Awaaz creator S. Thennarassu writes about the heart-wrenching atrocity against a tribal minor, which took place in the year 2021, in the following article.
In a small village called Kattuchivari near Vellimedu Petty, under the Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu, a tribal student belonging to the Irular tribe was thrown into fire by fellow students, due to his tribal identity. The incident took place in the year 2021, when Sundarraj (the survivor), aged 11 years old was travelling to his grandmother's house. His fellow students, Balamurugan, Divakar, and Kishore had been harassing him constantly for his tribal origin. They not only called him names and attacked him with castist slurs, but also made fun of his appearance.
Sundarraj had informed his schoolteachers and parents about this harassment. However, no steps were taken to ensure his safety. In a country where castist slurs and harassments are an everyday reality and hence normalized, it does not come as a surprise that complaints of an 11-year-old boy were not taken seriously. No steps were taken to de-escalate the matter at hand and as a result when Sundarraj was visiting his grandmother, his fellow students attacked him on the road and threw him in a burning dumpster. Sundarraj managed to run to a nearby water reservoir to put out the fire. Nonetheless, he was badly injured. Thereafter, he rushed home, and his father Kanniyappan admitted him to a nearby government hospital.
Later Sundarraj was admitted to Tindivanam Government Hospital for further treatment. Following the complaint filed by his father, Kaniyappan, the police and government officials started investigating the matter. Various human rights activists, tribal organizations, journalists, and media persons brought the matter to light. Tribal People's Front founder (பழங்குடி மக்கள் முன்னணி நிறுவனர்) Dr. Sudaroli Sundaram visited the hospital in person and inquired about his health.
Dr. Sudaroli Sundaram requested the government to take up the matter with utmost seriousness. He made the following demands:
Sundarraj belonging to the Irular tribe, should be given high-quality treatment and help to recover quickly. Also, the government should provide appropriate compensation to the affected student.
The Minister of School Education and a team of high-level officials from the Education Department should be ordered to conduct a direct investigation into the incident. Also, the government should provide proper counselling to the students who committed the crime in this incident and make them realize their guilt.
In the future, school and college students should be sensitized so that the domineering caste mentality and caste arrogance do not arise. All the schools-colleges-universities in Tamil Nadu should form groups of "friends" and develop a sense of unity in order to create equality and fraternity among the students.
Sundaram declared that giving caste certificates and 2 cents 'patta' to tribals who are one of the most marginalized in society, was not enough to ensure social justice. It is important to ensure their access to education, security and economic development. Caste atrocities are a major barrier to it. Sundarraj's case was not an isolated incident. Moreover, it is worrying that the accused are young students. This makes it clear that the mindset of people needs to change. Young children cannot be fed with castism. Young children are being affected by castism and violence so prevalent in our society. They are in turn being socialized on the same lines. This needs to change.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.