Cuddalore (TN), October 10
A woman Dalit panchayat president in the district was allegedly humiliated by the vice-president, who did not allow her to sit on a chair at meetings or hoist the national flag, drawing widespread condemnation from political parties.
Police are on the lookout for the vice-president, Mohan Raj, while panchayat secretary Sinduja has been suspended.
The incident also led to an outrage in social media.
The alleged disgrace came to light after a photograph of S Rajeswari, president of Therku Thittai village under Mel Buvanagiri Panchayat Union sitting on the floor at a meeting and others on chairs went viral in the social media, prompting authorities to swing into action.
District Collector Chandra Sekhar Sakhamuri and Police Superintendent M Sree Abhinav went to the village and held an enquiry on Saturday.
The police officer said Rajeswari named the panchayat vice-president and secretary in her complaint and a case has been registered against the duo under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act for offences, including humiliation.
“We will take a statement from her, investigate and appropriate action will be taken,” Abhinav told reporters.
To a question, he said there would be no threat to her life, adding adequate police personnel have been deployed in the village.
“Other ward members too have realised what has gone wrong,” he said.
The Collector said four meetings have been held in the panchayat office so far.
The panchayat president, Sakshe, was forced to sit on the floor while some ward members claimed that she did so voluntarily, the Collector said.
“The inquiry is going on, based on her complaint. Strict action as per law will be taken against those involved,” he said.
Asked about the photograph, he said the image shows July 17, 2020, as the date when it was clicked.
A show-cause notice has been issued to Mohan under the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act’s provision, governing removal of the vice-president and appropriate action would be taken, he said.
Rajeswari, when asked why she had not complained earlier, said she initially tolerated the vice president’s behaviour, but decided to lodge a complaint now when his ill treatment intensified.
Only the vice-president hoisted the national flag and she was not allowed to do so (during important occasions), she alleged.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said it was ‘barbaric’ and promised tough action as per law.
The AIADMK government had all along given due respect and recognition for the marginalised people, including Scheduled Castes and Tribes, he said.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko said such humiliation was outrageous, while DMK MP Kanimozhi said it was strongly condemnable and the leaders demanded tough action.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi Thol Thirumavalavan demanded the immediate arrest of those involved for obstructing the official work of the panchayat president.
Not only Theruku Thittai, the scenario was the same in several other villages, the VCK leader alleged and urged the government to review the situation and take appropriate remedial action.
Meanwhile, cadres of VCK and Left outfits gathered in front of the Buvanagiri police station in the district, demanding the arrest of the vice president and secretary.
The incident comes months after a woman Dalit panchayat president in Tiruvallur district was not allowed to unfurl the national flag on Independence Day.
She did so later following the intervention of district authorities. PTI