Suspended DMK panchayat president arrested under SC/ST Act for abusing Dalit youth

The youth reportedly entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Periya Mariamman Temple in Salem.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Jan 31, 2023 | 5:14 PMUpdatedJan 31, 2023 | 5:14 PM

Manickam has been remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. (Creative commons)

The Salem Rural Police arrested Thirumalaigiri panchayat president T Manickam for allegedly abusing and threatening a Dalit youth for entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Periya Mariamman Temple.

Manickam was arrested under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, hours after the DMK high command suspended him from the party on Monday, 30 January.

The police said S Praveen Kumar, a Scheduled Caste resident of Adidravidar Street at Tirumalaigiri in the Salem district, entered the temple on the night of 26 January. The caste Hindus objected to his entry and picked up a quarrel.

The next day, Kumar and his family were brought in front of the temple. Panchayat president Manickam and a few others abused him publicly for entering the temple. A video clip, purportedly of Manickam threatening the Dalit boy, went viral on social media.

Also read: After 80 years, Dalits enter a temple in Tiruvannamalai

On 30 January, Kumar complained to the Salem Steel Plant Police. He told the police that he was showered with a stream of casteist abuses, and threatened with dire consequences if he or anyone from his community attempted to enter the temple.

He named 10 people, including the panchayat president, in his complaint.

Even as the video went viral, BJP state president K Annamalai took to Twitter and condemned the actions of the panchayat president.

Meanwhile, the DMK issued a statement, suspending Manickam from the party.

Following the incident, Dalit organisations and the CPI(M) extended support to Kumar’s family, even as the police beefed up security in the village to avoid any untoward incidents.

On Monday evening, the Salem Steel Plant Police registered a case against 10 persons. The FIR was registered under six sections: SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act sections 3(1), 3(1)(r), 3(1)(s), 2(viii)ZC, the Protection Of Civil Rights Act Section 294 and Section 506/1 of the IPC.

Also read: The othering of Dalits in Tamil Nadu

Manickam was subsequently arrested, produced before the judicial magistrate and remanded in judicial custody. Only one person has been arrested so far.

Speaking to South First, Venkatachalam, a relative of the panchayat president, said that Kumar had entered the temple drunk and tried to attack the priest.

“A few youths from the other castes tried to question Praveen and entered into an altercation that night. The next day, the family of the boy went to the panchayat president for a compromise to avoid a clash between the two communities,” he added.