The testimonies of Karupayee and Ramar, wife and son of Servaaran, from the Fact-finding Investigation Report into the alleged murder of Servaaran a Dalit Panchayat president from Thirunelveli District, March 2007
Human Rights – Kalam, Tirunelveli, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF) together with Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) commissioned a Fact Finding Investigation into the death of Servaaran – Dalit Panchayat President, belonging to the Arundatiyar Community (Sub caste among Dalits) of Marthankinaru Panchayat, Kuruvikulam Panchayat Union, Tirunelveli District on 19.02.07.
Mrs. Karupayee, Age 55/07 W/o Late. Servaraan Muruthankinaru
I am residing in Arunthathiyar colony of Maruthankinaru Village. My husband M. Servaraan s/o Mookandi was the Panchayat President of Maruthankinaru elected in October 2006. I have two sons and three daughters. My first son Ramar who is married, is working in a private school at Nagerkoil. My second son Perumal is also married, now working as daily wage labourer in Kottayam. My two daughters Pechhi, Ganapathi are married and living with their husbands. My last daughter Kali aged 19 is unmarried and lives with me and works in the match industry. My husband is an agricultural labourer. On 19.02.2007 (Monday) he took his torchlight and a stick at approximately 5.30 am to go to the toilet in a nearby thorn bush. At around 6.00 am Kaliammal D/o Ramar a relative came to my house with my husband’s torchlight. She told me that my husband is lying down dead in the bush area. I was shocked and ran to the spot. My relatives, neighbours, Murugan s/o Saravaraan also came with me to the spot.
I found my husband’s body lying facing the ground in the thorn bush and he was dead. The stick he used and one of his slippers was lying near by.
Mr. Harikrishnan and a section of the Thevars supported my husband during Panchayat election. Harikrishnan’s wife Poolammal was Village Panchayat President for 15 years. But for all practical purposes Harikrishna functioned as the defacto Panchayat President. They assured us that if any problems arose they would support us”. So my husband contested in the election and became the president. Even after he became the President he worked as Thotti of the Panchayat Office. He was not allowed to sit in his chair after becoming president. Once when officers from B.D.O office came in January he was permitted to sit in his chair.
In the 2nd week of January Vice-President Sumati and her husband Neelaraja Rathinam did some development works without the knowledge of my husband like street lights, changing the drinking water pipeline etc., My husband questioned them for this. In retaliation Sumathi (Vice-President) in front of many people, abused my husband using the most foul language and cursing him about his caste. Her husband also scolded my husband. So my husband registered a complaint against both of them twice in Panavadali Chatiram Police Station. The Police Officials called Sumati, and her husband to the Police Station. The called my husband also. They did not take any action against Sumathi and her husband.
Sumati and her husband threatened my husband for giving a complaint against them. My husband used to discuss all these problems with me and my daughter. We didn’t disturb our son as they are working outstation.
We are sure that Vice-President Sumathi and her husband Neelaraja Ratinan killed my husband.
Ramar, S/o Servaaran :-
I have studied upto 9th Std. My father helped us in education. My father was working as servant to Harikrishnan’s family. Harikrishnan financially helped us sometimes. 300 thevar families supported my father during elections. The other 300 thevars supported Chelladurai. Mr.Harikrishnan only spent Rs.50,000 for my father. My father also spent some of his own money during election. The present Vice President Sumathi and her family supported another candidate Chelladurai.
After elections, problem arose between Sumathi and my father. She and her husband Neelaraja Ratinam once abused my father saying “You Sakkiliyan dog, how dare you not obey us”. After this incident my father filed complaint in Panavadali Police Station. But the police being in favour of Sumathi the case was just compromised. The second time also my father filed a complaint in the same station, but no action was taken. If they had taken any action, this death would not have happened. Our father was a sweeper in Panchayat Office located in the Thevar’s area.
Often my father complained to my mother about the threats by the Vice-President. If we knew about these threats in advance we would have asked him to resign from the post. Police Officials and others tried to portray that my father was suffering from heart problem is a false statement. Three months ago my father had chickun Kunia fever and was treated for that. Otherwise he is a strong and healthy person.
On 19.2.07 early morning around 5.00am he went to the toilet in pallar’s area as we don’t have separate place for toilet. As it is very dark he took one stick and torch light with him. After sometime a relative girl R. Kaliammal who had also gone to toilet found a torch lying on the ground. She switching on the torch light and found Servaaran lying down on the ground. She came running and informed my mother and brother. We noticed swelling on the throat and chest. We tried to give him soda, did some first aid as we couldn’t believe that our father was dead. In the meantime Harikrishnan went and informed the police. Then D.S.P and Panavadali Police Inspector came to our house. They took my father’s body to Sankaran Koil Government Hospital. The police first registered a case under sec 174. After the protest by 300 people and various organisations police changed the FIR to sec 302 SC & ST Act. We received the body in the evening. After that the rituals and we buried our father.
I believe that the reasons for my father’s death is
- Dominant caste hatred for dalits especially Arunthathiyar. They could not tolerate that a dalit being a president
- Complaint of my father in the police station against Vice President
- He refused to function as benamy president to Vice President.
In response to the brutal attack on Thalaiyuthu Panchayat President Krishnaveni, this is the ninth of a series of posts about attempts on the lives of dalit panchayat presidents. This attack has hospitalised an award-winning and popular elected leader and underlines the threat that caste poses to democracy. The Arunthathiyar Human Rights Federation’s statement on the issue is here and a poem by SRaj is here. There is also an interview with Panchayat President Krishnaveni, a fact-finding report on discrimination faced by Dalit Panchayat Presidents, a personal narrative from Jayanthi and Chellamma, a complaint that murdered Dalit Panchayat President Jaggaiyan had written. Ravichandran has written about responses to the attack on Panchayat President Krishnaveni. Posts on this theme will resume after a few days.