Editorial: Dead or alive…

Chennai: Death is a great leveller, they say. But, even death has not ended discrimination, if one is to go by reports which claimed that Dalits were denied entry to their burial and cremation ground in a village in Vellore district.

However, the Tamilnadu government on Wednesday informed the Madras High Court that no one denied access to Dalits to their burial ground and that there were no caste-based differences.

The submission was made during a hearing on a petition on access routes being allegedly blocked for Dalits to a cremation ground in Narayanapuram village, forcing the community members to lower bodies of their relatives, with the help of ropes, from a bridge into a nearby riverbed for the past four years.

The court, which had initiated the petition on its own taking cognisance of a media report after Assistant Solicitor General G Karthikeyan drew attention to it, had on Monday sought an explanation from the authorities on the issue. When the matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, the government pleader said there was no encroachment of the pathway and the land belonged to individuals.

The owners of the land would have permitted the Dalits to pass through their land to reach the cremation ground had anyone approached them, but ‘unfortunately no one approached them or the local authorities,’ the government pleader said.

However, wondering why the Dalits airdropped their deceased from the top of a bridge if the access to the burial ground was not denied, the bench adjourned the hearing to Thursday. The issue pertains to a news article that claimed that Dalits were denied the access to their cremation ground on the banks of Palar river forcing them to air-drop their dead from a 20-foot-high bridge.

On Monday, the court had decried the practice of earmarking separate burial and cremation ground for Dalits, while pointing out that right to entry into temples, hospitals or any public office is equal to all, irrespective of religion or caste. Life or death, there should not be discrimination in any form. If there is a divide, then there is no point in enjoying fruits of freedom for the past 72 years.

NT Bureau