Dalit men and women were ruthlessly attacked by caste Hindus in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, on Monday, 6 March, for playing Tamil movie songs on Dalit liberation.
According to the police, the incident occurred during the Salakkarai Mariamma temple festival — which is held every year as a part of the Masi magam — in the Sathappadi village near Bhuvanagiri in the Cuddalore district.
During the festival, the people take the deity of the temple — which belongs to the Dalit community — to the Samiyarpettai seashore in a procession. The seashore is around 10 km from the temple.
On Monday, the temple festival was celebrated and the procession was carried out with the deity.
In the evening, when the procession was returning in tractors, a Dalit liberation song from a movie with actor Dhanush in the lead was played.
Also read: The othering of Dalits in Tamil Nadu
Vanniyars, a section of upper-caste Hindus who are the majority in the area, opposed playing the song and asked the Dalits to stop it.
Refusing to do so, a few Dalit youths are said to have entered into an altercation with the Vanniyar men.
Subsequently, the upper-caste Hindus allegedly attacked the Dalit people in the procession with wooden logs and stones, in Cuddalore. More than a dozen people were injured in the attack.
“The Vanniyars from Manakudi scolded us with abuses and told us to stop playing the songs. While a few elders were pacifying them, the Vanniyars started attacking using casteist slurs,” S Murugesan, who was a part of the procession, told South First.
In retaliation, a few Vanniyars are also said to have sustained injuries.
Dalits block roads
Following it, the Dalits blocked parts of the Bhuvanagiri-Kurinjippadi highway, insisting that the police take action against the attackers.
Coming to know of the clash, a police team headed by Chidambaram Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) Ragupathy rushed to the spot and assured the protestors of action against the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, when the injured persons were being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, a section of Vanniyar youths blocked the vehicle near the Vadakku Thattai area and attacked them ruthlessly.
Caste Cruelty – Dalits of Sathappadi village in Cuddalore district has been brutally attacked by Vanniyars for hearing Dhanush's movie song 'Kanda Vara Sollunga'.
6 persons booked under SC/ST PoA act@TheSouthfirst pic.twitter.com/U7qCGWU06T
— Vinodh Arulappan (@VinodhArulappan) March 8, 2023
“The youths were playing the song ‘Kandaa vara sollunga‘ from the movie Karnan, which speaks about Dalit liberation. The Vanniyar youths opposed it and ordered the Dalits to play devotional songs, which they refused to do stating that playing a certain song was one’s wish”, Dalit activist and NGO Evidence’s Managing Director Kathir told South First.
“Following the clash, while the injured Dalits were being taken to the hospital, the Vanniyars who attacked the Dalits told their relatives in a nearby village about the incident. They, in turn, stopped the ambulance and attacked the woman, kids and youths who were being taken to the hospital,” he added.
While the attack happened, a person in the ambulance video-recorded the incident, which was widely shared on social media.
In the video, the upper-caste Hindu youths were seen using slurs and attacking the Dalits, who pleaded to be left along and sought help from the police.
According to Bhuvanagiri police, seven people have been arrested — six from the Vanniyar community under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, and one from the Dalit community — so far in connection with the incident.
Further, a battalion of the Tamil Nadu Special Police was deployed in the area to avoid further conflicts.