“When we are studying, they try to disturb us. When we are appearing for exams, they prevent us. When we are in hostel, they trouble us. When we ask for the rights from the college administration, the officials ignore us.” This is what is happening in Ambedkar Law College, Chennai for years. For so long, the Dalit students were tolerant to the maximum, and maintained the order of not entering into violent retaliations against the provocative caste Hindu students. The caste Hindu student’s primary motive was to prevent dalit students in appearing for the exams further endangering their future who come from impoverished background.
History has diarized the oppressive practices of caste Hindus particularly in rural areas. The Dalits in rural areas are still facing the problem of untouchability for which they could not react due to the dependency on caste Hindus for livelihood. For these rural Dalits, education alone shall become the panacea for their suffering. Hence, Dalit students migrate to colleges in cities for social dignity, and better job opportunities. Now they are wonder struck with the hegemonies attitudes of caste Hindu students who find all possible ways to prevent and hamper their progress.
Violent attack on Dalit students by caste hindu students:
The caste Hindu students have been consistently attacking dalit students in Dr.Ambedkar Law College, and in law college hostel. On 12th November 2008 at Dr.Ambedkar Law College Chennai, group of the students reportedly belonging to the Thevar/Yadavar caste attacked the Dalit students. This incident aired on all leading news channels. One Dalit student was severely injured when a Thevar student attacked him with a dagger. Immediately the Dalit students reacted to the brutal act of caste hindu students.
The clashes between the caste hindu students and Dalit students have become customary in Dr.Ambedkar Law College, chennai. The violence among students has escalated to a larger scale after the formation of a caste based organisation “Mukkulathor Manvar Peravai” in college with the help of caste hindu leaders (Mr.Seenisami Thevar, Mr.Ramakrishna Thevar, and Mr.Sridhar vandiyar). Whilst the politically backed Muthuramalingam Thevar birth celebration in Tamil Nadu, the Mukkulathor Manavar Peravai (MMP) celebrated inside the college on 30th October 2008. The MMP students, in commemoration of Muthuramalingam Thevar, published pamphlets, and simultaneously insulted dalit students by truncating name of the college and wrote “Chennai Law College” in their pamphlets instead of Dr.Ambedkar Law College. Such a provocative act of MMP students infuriated Dalit students. The Dalit students demanded MMP students to include the full name of college in pamphlets/posters. The MMP students immediately started beating Dalit students, and threatened not to appear for exams. The problem continued further, and hampered the Dalit students to prepare and appear for exams.
Examination started on 5th November 2008 in Dr.Ambedkar law College, Chennai. Bharathi kannan, Arumugam, Ayyadurai, and other MMP students wandered around the college premises with deadly weapons and threatened Dalit students not to appear in examinations.
On 7th November, MMP students attacked Dalit students (Meganathan, Sivaraj, Raja, Chithirai Selvan, and Ezhumalai) in broadway bus stand for appearing in exams. Bharathi kannan, leader of MMP, along with Arumugam, Ayyadurai and Vijay attacked with deadly weapons out of which, Ezhumalai was severely injured on head. He was later admitted in General Hospital for treatment. Many students refused to appear for the exams due to fear of attack by MMP students.
The following days, the MMP students planned for a mass attack against Dalit students. The Dalit students immediately sought for protection from the college authorities. However, as usual, the college authorities took no interest on the complaint. Hence, considering all these threats and attacks senior Dalit students organized and took responsibility of preventing clashes among students during the examination process. The college authorities were well informed by the dalit senior students about the precarious situation.
On 12th November, dalit students went to appear for the exams at Dr.Ambedkar Law College, Chennai. Bharathi kannan and Arumugam, as per their plan, came by bike with weapons, and waited near high court new chamber building for Ayyadurai. In the mean time, Ayyadurai came out of exam hall and was attacked by Dalit students. After realizing that Ayyadurai was not carrying deadly weapons, the Dalit students comforted him.
Earlier at around 1.00 pm Bharathi kannan communicated to his team to be alert and take positions for attacking dalit students. Mr.Gopal, a retired employee from Kalapakkam automic energy station, noticed Bharathi kannan sharpening a dagger. In the meantime principal handed over a petition to B2 Espalande Police station to provide protection for students in the college briefing about a possible clash among students. Police officials took no immediate actions on this issue. Rather, the police suggested the principal to contact BSP state convenor for intervention. According to sources, the police had a plan of arresting BSP leader under this situation due to the pressure of caste based organizations.
Bharathi kannan, and Arumugam entered the campus from jumping over the law college-high court compound wall. Arumugam ran towards Chithiraiselvan, who was earlier attacked by MMP students several times. Arumugam, with his dagger, attacked Chithiraiselvan. After the attack, Dalit students ran for his help and retaliated in support of Chithiraiselvan. Further, Bharathi kannan took his dagger out and attacked Chithiraiselvan. Chithiraiselvan received attacks on his head, and lost one of his ears during the clash.
Dalit students infuriated with wounds of chithiraiselvan attacked bharathi kannan and arumugam with sticks in order for preventing assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that death will otherwise be consequence of such assault. Bharathi kannan, in order to escape the attack, intentionally fell near the gate. It is also to be noted that Bharathi kannan has given a statement to Nakeeran, a popular Tamil magazine, that he deliberately fell near the gate in order to prevent further attack from Dalit students.
The police personnel who were watching the whole incident were present ever since Bharathi kannan jumped out of court compound wall to enter college and ran with dagger to attack Chithiraiselvan. They took no action to prevent the violence.
The police arrested 27 dalit students and 14 caste Hindu students. Out of 27 Dalit students, 17 are imprisoned in Puzhal prison, and 10 are in Saidapet sub jail. Chithiraiselvan was admitted to Royapettah General Hospital, and arrested under sections 147, 148, 307, 506(2) (Attempt to murder) of the IPC. He is under plastic surgery treatment of damaged ears.
Section 506(2) was invoked upon Bharathi Kannan and Arumugam. So far they have not been arrested due to the strong political and caste based organization support. According to sources, Trichy Siva, Member of Parliament, has been constantly supporting Bharathi Kannan in his activities.
Gokul Raj, who is neither a student of Dr.Ambedkar Law College nor involved in the incident, was arrested when he told the police that he is a Dalit student from Tirupathi Law College.
History of violent attacks on dalit students in Dr.Ambedkar Law College:
The caste Hindu students were constantly harassing Dalit students in the college hostel at Purasawakkam, Chennai. On many occasions, the caste hindu students refused to share rooms with Dalit students and demanded for separate Backward Class hostel to college authorities. Few months back, Bharathi Kannan brought more than 50 rowdies into the college campus to attack Dalit students. The Dalit students immediately reported to B2 police station to take legal actions against Bharathi kannan and others. The police took no interest in the case, and no action was taken against the perpetrators. The college authorities too were reluctant in considering the case, and ignored out rightly. Bharathi kannan has been involved in several criminal cases. However, so far no action was taken by college authorities and police officials.
Induced retaliation by Dalits against caste Hindu students
The dalit students were repeatedly attacked by MMP students. Dr.Ambedkar Law College has a gruesome history on caste based violence perpetuated by MMP students against dalit students. Throughout, dalit students were highly tolerant and took all peaceful measures to overcome caste discriminations and caste based violence. The dalit students of Dr.Ambedkar Law College have periodically reported to the police station, college authorities, and adhered to peaceful approaches to prevent caste violence. None of the dalit students have any criminal cases against them so far unlike MMP students. The dalit students hail from poor rural families of Tamil Nadu, and have very good track record in their respective villages.
The MMP students wanted to extend their domination in Dr.Ambedkar Law College, and tried all violent ways to prevent dalit students from pursuing their education. The reactionary act of dalit students are just an outcome of the persistent attack on them perpetuated by MMP students. The dalit students on 12th November attacked Bharathi kannan, Arumugam, and Ayyadurai in order for preventing further violence as these three already stabbed dalit students with daggers with the intention of killing them. The dalit students pleaded in all legal measures before attacking the MMP students. Since, the police and college authority failed to prevent violence among students, the Dalit students were forced to retaliate attacks against MMP students.
A significant part in the clash is that the dalit students never used deadly weapons unlike the MMP students. Even though the dagger was taken away from Bharathi kannan and Arumugam, none of the Dalit students used dagger for attacking the MMP students.
Anti-Dalit campaign by media, and caste Hindu activists:
Some of the caste Hindu dominated media has been repeatedly using news channels against Dalit students. The video clippings are highly biased, and communicate only the reactionary and defensive acts of victimized Dalit students who were assaulted. The constant violence carried by MMP students, and attack by Bharathi kannan and Arumugam that has lead to the violent clash has totally been removed. Rather, the Dalit students were portrayed by the media as the perpetrators.
The MMP students have very strong political hold, and enjoy support from caste based organizations in Tamil Nadu. AIADMK announced fasting on 23rd November which is conducted by students of the party. AIADMK requested party members, students, and public to take action against Dalit students for attacking Bharathi kannan and Arumugam.
Wide scale protest witnessed in many districts by the backward class organizations to take action against dalit students. Nearly about 22 public transports were damaged by the violent protest. Political parties such as DMK and ADMK have raised issues against the Dalit students in assembly. Posters portraying against Dalit students by caste Hindu organizations has been witnessed in many districts of Tamil Nadu.
Demands and Recommendations:
1. Demand for the release all 27 Dalit students from prison under IPC section 100, 102 and 81. Dalit students were not having any intention of harming MMP students. In order to prevent further attacks from MMP students, the Dalit students attacked. The right of private defense used by Dalits students against MMP students was due to the act of MMP students which does reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, and that there was no time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities. If the Dalit students had the intention of killing the MMP students, they would have brought deadly weapons or grabbed the daggers from MMP students and would have attacked.
According to section 100, the Right of private defense of the body extends, under the restrictions mentioned in the last preceding sections, to the voluntary causing of death or of any harm to the assailant if the offense which occasions the exercise of the right be of any of the descriptions hereinafter enumerated namely:-
i. Such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that death will otherwise be consequence of such assault
ii. Such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that grievous hurt will otherwise be consequence of such assault.
According to IPC section 102, the right of private defence continues as long as such apprehension of danger to the body continues.
According to IPC section 81, Act likely to cause harm but done without criminal intent and to prevent other harm – Nothing is an offence merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, if it be done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property.
2. Immediate release of Gokul Raj who is neither a student of Dr.Ambedkar Law College nor connected to the incident. There was no common object between Gokul Raj and dalit students of Dr.Ambedkar Law College. Mere presence at the scene of rioting does not make a person an offender under the offence of rioting. Gokul Raj has neither common object nor taken some active participation in such offence. He was neither armed with deadly weapon of offence nor with anything which is used as a weapon of offence. Hence, Section 147 and 148 should be revoked upon him.
3. Invoke IPC section 147 and 148 upon Mukkulathur Manavar Peravai students who had come with 40 rowdies to attack dalit students. They carried armed weapons for the purpose of injuring and killing dalit students who came for appearing exams.
4. Invoke IPC section 120A and 120B against Bharathi Kannan, Arumugam, and Ayyadurai on criminal conspiracy with the intention killing dalit students who appear exams.
5. Revoke IPC section 147 and 148 upon Dalit students as they have only exercised the right of private defence, which is acceptable under IPC section 100. The right of private defence used by dalits students against MMP students was due to the act of MMP students which does reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, and that there was no time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities. The Dalit students were not having any “common object” of criminal force as stated in IPC section 141 (Unlawful assembly).
6. The authorities of Dr.Ambedkar Law College should impose ban on Mukkulathur Manavar Peravai, and prevent functioning inside college premises
7. Financial support to all 27 dalit students to be extended for facing expenses, and loss incurred due to arrest as all these students hail from socially and economically poor families.
8. Dismissal of Bharathi Kannan, Arumugam, and Ayyadurai from Dr.Ambedkar Law College for their criminal records. There are many criminal cases against them.
9. Register case against Bharathi kannan, Arumugam, and ayyadurai under the SC/ST (Preventions of atrocities) Act, 1989 under section 3(1) (ii), (x) for acts with intent to cause injury and insult upon Dalit students, and intentionally intimidate dalit students. The three students have already been registered previously under the SC/ST (Preventions of atrocities) Act, 1989
10. Provide protection to all 27 Dalit students if they avail conditional or unconditional bail. It is speculated that the caste based organizations are planning to attack Dalit students if the later is released from prison.
11. Bharathi Kannan, Arumugam and Ayyadurai to be arrested under IPC section 307 as they had the motive and intention for killing. They attacked Chithiraiselvan and others with the intention of killing them with a dagger that is shown in all media. Chithiraiselvan in this attack lost one of his ears, and now under treatment in Royapettah General Hospital.
12. Arrest Bharathi Kannan, Arumugam and Ayyadurai under IPC section 150 in hiring of persons to join unlawful assembly for attacking Dalit students
13. Action against MMP students for damaging college properties while attacking Dalit students.
14. Actions against MMP students for abusing national leader Dr.Ambedkar, and in continuation ban the MMP. Such a derogatory act of MMP students on our father of Indian Constitution is not only obnoxious but also punishable.
15. Prevent caste hindu leaders in sponsoring for perpetuating violence against Dalits
16. While visiting Puzhal prison and Saidapet sub jail, the dalit students requested for release, and appear in exams. Special arrangements should be made by Dr.Ambedkar Law College for Dalit students, and others who were prevented to appear for the examination. During such process, enough protection should be given to all students, irrespective of their castes, by college authorities and police while appearing exams, and also in hostel premises.
1. Tamizhinian, Advocate Chennai High Court
2. Umanathan, Sakya Foundation
3. Veeramani, Research Scholar, JNU
4. Gauthama Prabhu, Social activist