— Photo: K. Ganesan
GREAT DIVIDE: A 600-metre-long wall separates Dalits from caste Hindus at Uthapuram village in Madurai district.
MADURAI: At Uthapuram village near Ezhumalai in Madurai district, caste continues to guide social relations.
There are about 2,000 families of Dalits, who outnumber every other caste, but they still face discrimination.
With a long history of caste animosity against Dalits behind them, caste Hindus of the village have electrified a 600-metre-long wall, which passes through pockets that were meant to be for common use by people of all castes.
The wall is intended to block common entry points, thereby preventing the castes from mingling. It has been there since 1990, but electricity is being passed in the night using iron rods for the last 10 days.
The electrification is meant to prevent the Dalits from breaking into the caste Hindu areas during the night.
The caste Hindus have also thwarted efforts by the Dalits to build a bus shelter. They recently raised the height of a parapet near the bus stop to prevent Dalits from sitting in front of them.
Dalits in Uthapuram village do not visit the teashops owned by caste Hindus. They are not allowed to enter streets dominated by a particular upper caste.
They are denied space in village squares and community halls and access to burial grounds.
Asked about the erection of the wall, a former panchayat president, Sena Vana Oyyanan, said: “We (kudiyanavargal) do not go in for anything. It is the Dalits, their militancy and aggressiveness, which has further widened the gap between castes and increased the frustration.”