Insult to Dalit panchayat president near Chennai: Secy suspended, 2 arrested

In the wake of the caste discrimination faced by a woman panchayat leader belonging to Scheduled Caste community in Aathupakkam in Tiruvallur, district collector Mageswari said that panchayat secretary Sasikumar has been suspended.

The secretary, along with the husband of the vice president of the panchayat, had stopped Amrutham from hoisting a national flag in the district on Independence Day.

Speaking to reporters, Mageswari said the panchayat secretary Sasikumar has been suspended and two people have been arrested by the police. “We are planning to interrogate the panchayat leader Amrutham and we will monitor that no such incident repeats again in the district,” she said.

Amurtham, the 60-year-old panchayat chief of Athupakkam village, about 45 km from state capital Chennai, said she was invited to hoist the flag at a government school. However, she was later asked not to come citing Covid-19 concerns.

Aurtham told reporters that she needs protection as she feels threatened because she belongs to the SC/ST community. This was the second such incident for the panchayat chief. In January, Amurtham was turned away from hoisting the tricolour in the school.

Detailing the harassment and humiliation faced by her, in the petition to collector Maheswari Ravikumar, Amurtham said, “I strongly believe the reasons for ignoring me is my caste — I am a dalit woman, without any financial backing and an agriculture coolie. I seek my rights and I believe that you (collector) will restore my rights and take appropriate action against the wrongdoers.”

Amrutham forwarded the petition to the state human rights commission (SHRC) and national commission for SC/ST. She also mentioned that panchayat secretary had not given her the office keys and panchayat president seal.

A reporter for a leading Tamil news channel was allegedly beaten up by office bearers of the Aathupakam panchayat in Gummidipoondi on Tuesday. The reporter visited the place to report on the caste-based discrimination faced by Amrutham, who was not allowed to hoist the national flag at a school on Independence Day.