A day after a video clip that showed relatives of a Dalit man lowering his body from atop a bridge using ropes because they had no access to the burial ground below went viral, police and Vellore administration officials on Thursday visited the area and made arrangements for a new burial ground nearby.
Fifty-six-year old Kuppan died in an accident on Friday night while he walking home. Police are yet to trace the car that hit him. On Saturday, his son K Kannadasan (26) and relatives decided to take the body to the nearby riverbank of Palar for burial as they did not have enough space to bury or cremate it in their small land surrounded by several houses. “We didn’t face trouble from upper caste people. There were no clashes, no one stopped us. But when we last buried a body on this river bank about six years ago, there was a small path leading to the river bank. But now, the entire area has been fenced as the landowner has developed the property for agriculture. We were some 50 people in the funeral procession. They wouldn’t have allowed us to enter their property to reach the river bank. This forced us to lower the body on a cradle from the bridge,” Kannadasan said.
On Thursday, Kannadasan said, several government teams visited their village and promised a space for burial about 4 km away. The promise has relieved the local residents, but given a new cause for anxiety. “We will have to cross several villages of upper caste people (politically and socially powerful OBC-Vanniyar community dominates this area) to reach there. We fear they may stop our funeral processions as in the past. But police and the tehsildar promised that they will help us if someone stops us,” he said.
According to Kannadasan, Dalits in his colony in Narayanapuram cremated their bodies in their neighbourhood in the past. “Upper caste people have their own burial ground. But we don’t have any space as we have built houses on our small plots of land. Where do we go to bury our dead? Some of the families in which deaths recently took place managed to bury the bodies in their backyard. We didn’t have space. As there were other houses nearby, cremation too was not an option,” he said.
Kuppan was a daily wage labourer. He is survived by his wife Kasthuri, 49, and their children — Kavitha, 31, Dinesh, 28, and Kannadasan. Dinesh and Kannadasan work at a nearby stone quarry and also operate some vehicles.
The office of the Vellore collector said revenue, block and police officials visited the spot on Thursday. “Block development officer too visited the colony and promised help. We will make sure they do not face this problem for a burial ground in the future,” said a senior officer.