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The movie Jai Bhim talked about a third-year-old case of police atrocities on the Irular, a marginalized tribe. The movie portrayed a particularly egregious case of victimization and brutality. Even today, false cases being foisted on Irular continues, says Prabha Kalvimani, an activist who has dedicated himself to working for the Irular community.

Prabha Kalvimani says foisting of false cases by police, torture in police station have been happening over many decades. Some 50 cases Irulars have faced since 1993 have not been decided. No action has been taken on policemen who foist false cases. “It is still a habit in the police to get hold of Irulars, take them to the police station, beat them up and foist false cases against them,” he said.

After seeing Jai Bhim movie, TN Chief Minister M K Stalin has been taking action so Irulars receive benefits from welfare schemes, education for their children, pattas for houses and community certificates.e  He should take action against the police foisting false cases, he said.

Prabha Kalvimani cited a specific case to illustrate a point. Some 16 Irulars along with 15 of their children were freed from bonded labour in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Five families from that group are living at the Justice Chandru Colony in Siddhalingamadam in Villupuram district. They and some other Irulars rescued from bonded labour in Erode, Karur and Theni districts have been working at a brick kiln near Siddhalingapuram.

Among those rescued from Andhra is Ganesan whose Aadhar card, family card and bank account details have not been submitted to the labour welfare department. Because of this none of the 16 rescued have obtained benefits the government is giving for those rescued from bonded labour.

On March 1, 2022, three from the settlement – Pandiyan, his elder brother Ramachandran, and nephew Kumar – went in search of Ganesan on three two-wheelers so they could get his details for submission to the labour department. Mylam police arrested them near the Tasmac shop at Kootteripattu, Mylam. They were kept in an unoccupied building overnight and tortured. Theft cases were filed on them and they were taken to prison next day.

Citing police sources, newspapers carried a report that on the morning of March 2, Pandiyan, Ramachandran and Kumar were arrested for breaking the hundi in the Kootteripattu Mariamman temple and stealing money in it and that they also attempted to steal from the Ayyanarappan temple nearby. Karthi, Sankar, Viji and Selvam escaped the police, the report said.

The arrested were charged under eight more theft cases pending from last year from Mayilam, Vellimedupettai, Vikravandi and Tiruvennainallur police stations. They were included in pending theft cases at Iveli, Koraikeni, Pombur. What is to be noted is that none of the accused were charged with any crime anytime before, said Prabha Kalvimani.

On March 2, families of the Irulars went to Villupuram to give a complaint. When they had gone to give a complaint, the police searched the house of Virudambal in Siddhalingamadam and allegedly took away two amplifiers, two sets of ear studs and ear rings. For that also a police complaint has been given, says Prabha Kalvimani. He says the Irular Protection Association has been agitating against this latest case of police action.

Prabha Kalvimani continues. Three years ago, in the month of May, Mohan, an Irular, from Pombur was taken into custody and badly tortured by the police. When he and R Murugappan helped to write a complaint on this, they were charged with attacking Irulars, he says. Justice should be served and compensation should be given in the case of police action on Anandan of Keezhmalaiyanur, Mari from Kengampuram and Muthu from Ooralpattinam.

In 2011, 13 Irulars from TK Mandapam were charged with theft and lodged in jail. Five women were sexually abused. When P V Ramesh and Prabha Kalvimani went to fight for justice for them, they were charged under the prevention of atrocities on SC/ST act, says P Ilangovan, president of the association. The association wrote to the chief minister saying no justice has been served for 10 years in this case.

Rounding up Irulars and charging them with unsolved crimes has been a recurring practice, the activists say. In 2019, two such cases happened in which ten Irulars were first rounded up and then charged with pending cases in several police stations in that area.

In July of 2021, three Irulars working in brick kilns in Villupuram were taken to custody and charged with theft. Activists had to go all the way to high court to secure bail. Since August of last year, Murthy of Tindivanam has been in prison at the sub-jail there. He is awaiting bail.

Prabha Kalvimani says a commission should be instituted headed by a retired judge who will inquire into all the pending cases and dispense justice. The judge could help the government put in place norms that would prevent what Irulars continue to face as a marginalized community.

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