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Dalits and Adivasis

Dalits in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur Defy Upper Caste Ban, Walk Street in Slippers

60 members of the Dalit community in Tamil Nadu defied an unwritten ban imposed by upper castes in Rajavur village on Sunday. The community members, breaking tradition, walked the ‘Kambala Naicken Street’ in Madathukulam taluk of Tiruppur district wearing footwear, marking a historic departure from the oppressive norm, according to reports.

For generations, an unspoken rule enforced by upper castes prohibited Dalits from walking on the street with slippers, and even riding cycles was forbidden for Scheduled Caste (SC) members. The street, spanning 300 meters, is predominantly inhabited by Naickers, a backward caste community, with about 800 households in the village belonging to dominant castes like Gounders and Naickers.

A resident, A Muruganandam (51), told The New Indian Express, “Arunthathiyar community members were barred from walking with slippers on the street. SC members faced death threats and assaults. Upper-caste women even claimed that a local deity would bring death to SC members if they wore slippers on the street. Living under oppression for decades, we decided to bring the issue to the attention of Dalit outfits a few weeks ago.”

Highlighting the deep-rooted discrimination, another SC community member said, “When untouchability was banned after Independence, a story was concocted by the dominant caste, stating that a voodoo doll buried under the street would cause death to SC people if they walked with slippers. Some believed these stories, and the practice persisted till today.”

The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (Tiruppur) took notice, with secretary CK Kanagaraj visiting the village. Several Dalit women were reportedly denied entry to the street. Despite police denying permission for a protest, members of the front, along with political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, and Dalit rights organization Aathi Thamizhar Peravai, decided to walk the street, challenging the deeply ingrained discriminatory norms.

The 60-member group further entered the Rajakaliamman temple, breaking barriers that had long kept Dalits out.

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