India
26.09.02
Urgent Interventions

India: caste discrimination against Dalit Sankan S/o. Sri Periasamy involving torture and other forms of ill-treatment

ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONCERN
Case IND 260902.ESCRC

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asian Human Rights Commission and People’s Watch - Tamil Nadu, two members of the OMCT network, of caste discrimination practices involving bonded labour, humiliations, harassment, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, death threats, and destruction and confiscation of property, perpetrated by police officials and members of upper-castes against Sankan S/o. Sri Periasamy, a Dalit belonging to the Hindu Pallar Community, who resides at the Kavundampatti, Pallapatti (via), Nilkottai Taluk, Dindigul District of Tamilnadu State in South India, with his wife Packiam, sons Manikandan and Periasamy and daughter Thamarai, who have also been subjected to violence and intimidations.

According to the information received, Sankan has been an agricultural coolie (labourer) for the past 5 years and before that was a bonded labourer in the fields of Asokan, S/o. Krishnasamy Gounder of Kavundampatti, a rich upper caste farmer who owns hundred acres or land. Since the age of 17, Sankan has been responsible for the cultivation of 16 acres of land, handing over the entire produce of his harvest to his landlord, and accepting whatever the landlord gave him, as was customary. His father and brothers were also involved in this bonded labour system, and for the past 30 years, Sankan and his father had allegedly been looking after their land in a responsible manner.

It is reported that Sankan was subjected to a series of humiliations and ill treatments while trying to assert his right over a piece of land that rightfully belonged to him. Indeed, Sankan had an arrangement with his landlord Asokan under which the latter would sell him 1.5 acres of land. As a result, during 15 years, Rs.500/- were taken every month from Sankan’s salary until he was able to cover the cost of the land. According to the information received, Sankan never thought to ask the landlord to transfer the land in his name as he felt that it was with the person he trusted most.

Sankan’s problems allegedly started in 1997, in the Tamil month of Aippasi, when the neighbouring landlord Bose Gounder, S/o. Thummaya Gounder accused Sankan of having stolen coconuts from his grove and filed a false complaint to the police. For having dared to protest against this, it is reported that Sankan was tied to a tree and beaten. He was also called derogatory caste names and was humiliated. He was finally pulled up with the rope and tied to the top of the tree.

According to the information received, Sankan’s younger brother Ponnar, who had witnessed the incident, informed the landlord Asokan who gave him Rs.300/- and advised him to file a complaint according to the PCR Act against Sankan’s perpetrators, which Ponnar and Sankan did at the Vadipatti police station. Following this, Bose Gounder and his son were immediately arrested by the police and sent to jail in Madurai. It is reported that three days after this incident, when Sankan was waiting at the Vadipatti bus stand, one Kalaivanan and a few members of the Gounder community came towards him, called him “Pallar Dog” and started beating him up, threatening to murder him. Out of fear, Sankan filed a complaint with the PCR police, which resulted in the arrest of Kalaivanan and four other Gounders. On hearing about these incidents, around 300 Gounders went with 10 tractors to Ammainayakanoor police station to protest, and threatened to attack the police station. They finally dispersed after they were told that it was not possible to release those who were arrested.

After these events, Sankan’s landlord Asokan reportedly warned him that his life was in danger, and that he was safe only because he was on his property. He asked Sankan not to leave the farm because his caste people had told him that they would not hesitate to murder Sankan. But after three months, the Panchayat elections were announced and Asokan asked Sankan to leave because he was planning to contest the elections. He argued that if he kept Sankan with him he would never become the President because people of his caste were angry against him. Sankan pleaded with him, but was ordered to leave. It is reported that Sankan immediately asked his landlord to give him his share of 1.5 acres of land as well as his share for having worked for 30 years. Asokan allegedly refused to give him anything and added that he owed nothing to Sankan. Moreover, he threatened Sankan with dire consequences. As a result, Sankan went to Dindigul and registered a complaint with the PCR police against Asokan and his brothers.
The next day, it is reported that the police enquired the matter, and asked Asokan and Sankan to appear at the police station. During the enquiry, it was decided that Sankan should be given the land along with all his wages. A calculation was reached at Rs.85,000/- for Sankan’s labour of 30 years. Along with this, a sum of Rs.15,000/- was added. Thus, Mr. Veeraswamy, the Inspector at the PCR cell said that Sankan should be paid a total sum of Rs.1,00,000/-. The landlord Asokan promised to pay the amount and hand over the land documents before the village Panchayat.

After a month, Sankan went again to the PCR police and reported that nothing had taken place. As a result, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Asokan and his brothers, who were arrested and finally let out on bail. According to the information received, Asokan and his brothers then hired 5 Thevars thugs who ordered Sankan to vacate the land, stating that they had taken the land on lease. When Sankan refused, they tied him up and beat him severely. Then, the attackers tied his hands and legs, took him and his family in a jeep and threw them in a lake that is situated at the eastern side of their village. They also threw all of his household goods into the lake. The damaged and lost household items were reportedly worth Rs.30,000.

Later on, it is reported that while Asokan had returned to work on his 1.5 acres of land, the police from Ammainayakanoor police station came to enquire about the PCR complaint and asked Sankan to accompany them. When he entered the police station, they caught Sankan by the neck and pushed him inside a cell, alleging that a complaint of having planned to murder Asokan was registered against him. Sankan was kept in Trichy jail for a month. According the information received, his hut was burnt down during that time, and property worth Rs.20,000/- was lost. Moreover, his wife and children were beaten, driven away and were accused of burning down the hut. They were allegedly beaten and chased away by Vallal S/o. Bommaian and Kannan S/o. Chinnasamy, the men who had threatened Sankan.

After a month, when Sankan was released on bail, he went back to his land with the intention of re-building his house, but once again the policemen from Ammainayakanoor came and took him away, accusing him of attempting to kill Asokan with a crowbar and threw him into Madurai jail, where he remained for a month. While he was in jail, it is reported that Asokan sold the 1.5 acres by dividing it into plots to 11 persons. When Sankan returned from the jail he asked these eleven people to leave the land and made a complaint to the Ammainayakanoor police station. The police enquired into the matter and found that these 11 people had no proper documents and that there was a civil dispute pending in Court. Out of the 11, 10 of them left Sankan’s land. However, Kannan S/o. Chinnasamy refused to vacate the land. In the meantime, Sankan continued to fight the civil suit that had been going on for the past five years and had turned into a criminal case. He was also acquitted in the false case of attempt to murder.

It is reported that violence against Sankan resumed in the last Tamil month of Aavani. Kannan S/o. Chinnasamy had cut the thorns from Sankan’s land and because the latter had protested, the entire Chinnasamy family came to attack him with knives and sticks. Sankan managed to escape but the mob tore his wife’s sari and molested her. As a result of this attack Sankan’s wife was mentally affected, and Sankan immediately lodged a complaint with the PCR Unit. On September 5 2002, as Sankan was drinking tea at Dhanapandy’s tea shop, Kannan S/o. Chinnasamy, Chinnasamy S/o. Vakkil Mayandi Thevar, Annadurai S/o. Bommai Thevar (a policeman posted in Chennai) and his brother Vairam s/o. Bommai Thevar came in. On seeing Sankan, Kannan affronted him, slapped him on both his cheeks and proffered death threats against It is reported that Kannan and Annadurai held Sankan by his neck and dragged him a certain distance from the teashop. The six men kept beating him. Sankan fell down, but Annadurai lifted him and dragged him for 200 yards, and Sankan was beaten and kicked while he pleaded with folded hands not to be beaten. He even fell at Kannan’s feet and begged, but Kannan caught hold of Sankan’s hair and bent his head backwards and thrust his mouth open. At this point, Annadurai urinated into Sankan’s. The eyewitnesses to this incident were Krishnan from the Moopanar community, Rajamani from the Pallar community, Mani s/o. Poochiya Gounder and Parthiban S/o. Sadayandy Gounder. Then Annadurai stamped on Sankan and beat him with his slippers. When the men saw others, including Rajamani, trying to defend Sankan, Chinnasamy and Annadurai threatened them saying that they too would meet the same fate, but Rajamani finally managed to pacify them. After these events, despite fearing for his life, Sankan went back home and spent the night there, upon the advice of two policemen.

According the information received, on 8th of September, at 7.00 a.m., as he was going to make a written complaint and was near Dhanapandy tea shop, Kannan S/o. Chinnasamy saw him and proffered death threats against him and his family. Since then complaints have been submitted to Government Officials on September 13th and, with the help of People’s Watch - Tamil Nadu, to the Inspector General of Police of South Zone Tamilnadu Mr. Rajendran IPS, to the Superintendent of Police Dindigul, Mr. Jawahar Chandrashekhar IPS and to the Ammainayakanoor Police Station following which an FIR was filed under section 3(1) (I) and 3(1) (X) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Up until September 23rd, 2002, of the accused had been arrested.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Sri Periasamy and his family, given the death threats that have been proffered against them, the ill-treatment, discrimination and torture to which they have been subjected, and the failure of the authorities to protect them.

Action Requested

Please write to the Indian authorities urging them to:

1. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
2. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Sankan, S/o. Sri Periasamy and the members of his family;
3. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards such as the provisions of Schedule V of the Constitution, Section 4 of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ILO Convention No 169.

Addresses

· H.E. President Abdul Kalam, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi 110 004, INDIA Fax: 91-11-301 7290 / 7824; E-mail: Pressecy@Sansad.nic.in
· H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 011 Fax: 91-11-3019545 / 91-11-3016857; E-mail: eindun@undp.org;
· Justice J. S. Verma, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission (NHR), Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi 11001, India, Fax: 91-11-334 0016; E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in
· Dr. J. Jayalalitha, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, Fort St. George, Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, Fax no:-044-8258101, E-mail: cmcellec.tn.gov
· Justice Dilip Singh Bhuria, Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes, Floor 5, Lok Nayak Bhavan, Khan Market, New Delhi-110003, INDIA, Tel: 91-11-4620969, Fax: 91-11-4625378

Please also write to the embassies of India in your respective country

Geneva, September 26th, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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