It was reportedly discovered in a survey by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front that many Dalit panchayat chiefs in the state weren’t even permitted a chair in their offices.
According to the report, Dalit presidents were not given chairs in 22 out of 386 panchayats. Many Dalit panchayat leaders were not even permitted to hoist the flag, according to a poll that was done in 24 districts of the state. Eventually, the panchayat presidents were occasionally denied entry to the offices of the local bodies and occasionally denied access to documents.
The plight of Dalit panchayat leaders who are still unable to hoist the national flag because of untouchability continues in numerous districts of Tamil Nadu as India prepares to celebrate its 75th Independence Day with much glory. Dalit panchayat presidents are also subject to other types of discrimination, according to a field survey performed by TNUEF. In Tamil Nadu, there are Dalit leaders in more than 2000 panchayats. In this, 386 panchayats in 24 districts were studied by the members from TNUEF. It has been confirmed that, according to Samuel Raj, the general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, all panchayats practice some form of untouchability.
Additionally, 42 panchayats do not have a name board with the name of the Panchayat President, as per this field survey. 22 Dalit panchayat presidents were unable to sit in an office chair, whereas 14 panchayats do not get office keys for the president, 39 panchayats’ documents and maps were not handed over to the president, in 34 panchayats, the leaders are threatened and subjected to attack and 17 panchayats women leaders face discrimination.
The leader of the Untouchability Eradication Front, Chellakannu, claims that the front wants that Dalit panchayat leaders be provided with the appropriate security and that mechanisms be created for them to register complaints. Shanmugavalli, the president of the Keezhapoonkodi panchayat of Sivaganga, claims that she has not received the paperwork pertaining to the panchayat and that non-Dalits will not cooperate unless they come to the gram sabha meeting.
Meanwhile, Samuel Raj of TNUEF, after the report’s release said ‘The study’s results are alarming and depressing. When the nation is getting ready to commemorate its 75th anniversary of Independence, panchayat presidents aren’t even allowed to sit in chairs or raise the flag. This issue is present in over 20 panchayats in the state so far. The caste prejudice still exists in Tamil Nadu, a state that upholds the principles of Periyar, who battled against it. We call to the government to establish a specific mechanism to address the issues of the Dalit panchayat presidents,’ Samuel Raj remarked.
Additionally, he demanded that the Chinna Salem tahsildar be charged with violating the SC/ST Atrocities Act by holding an unauthorized peace meeting and coercing Sudha, a Dalit woman serving as the panchayat president of Eduthavainatham in Kallakurichi district, into agreeing to let the headmaster of the nearby school raise the national flag on Independence Day in her place.
Samuel Raj reported that Sudha had petitioned the superintendent of police in Kallakurichi a few days prior to Independence Day, asking for police protection to assist her in hoisting the flag.