Chennai: At a time when caste discrimination denies basic rights to Dalits even in elite urban society, here is a village in Tiruvallur district that is an epitome of the concept of ‘social inclusiveness’.
In an unusual scenario for rural India, Adigathur village members, who had welcomed the homeless Narikuruva, Arundathiyar and Irula communities 15 years ago, treat them with equality.
Besides enjoying free access to the upper caste temples, the scheduled caste people are also allowed to perform Tiruvuzha (festival).
Lush green meadows, unpolluted water bodies filled with lotus trees and garbage-free roads welcome one to Adigathur, a tail end village in Tiruvallur, which has a lot of caste Hindu migrants from Andhra Pradesh. Besides being caste-free, the village has adopted waste segregation, proper maintenance of Anganwadi centres and a massive tree plantation drive – principles yet to be fully implemented in the urban society. The village is a vision developed by a Panchayat President couple, who were in the post for ten years each.
“We take the goddess to the caste Hindu localities during the annual Amman Tiruvuzha. Never did we feel discrimination. In fact, they are very encouraging,” said Kala, an agricultural labourer. The Irula community performs the Amman Tiruvuzha in the village.
So how did the village shed off the barriers? The credit could be attributed to the Dalit couple, who embodied the ideologies of Ambedkar. Meet C. Sumathi and K. Chidambaranathan, who played a vital role in the social, environmental and economic development of the village.
When Chidarambaranathan was the President 15 years ago, he sought the public opinion in the gram sabha and brought 80 Irula, 60 Nari Kuruva and 30 Arundathiyar families from the streets of Tiruvallur district.
The walls of their residence are covered with photo frames of Ambedkar, Karl Marx and Nelson Mandela and the shelves, with non-fiction books of prominent leaders of the world.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, the couple said, “A few people with vested interests challenged our move in High Court. It was then that the court scrapped the case, considering the gram sabha resolution,” said Chidarambaranathan, who was clad in an attire resembling Ambedkar.
Besides providing houses to the families, the couple had ensured a decent livelihood and education to their children. “President Sir would come every morning to ensure that our kids don’t skip school. We were living a nomadic life. Never did we dream of owning a house,” said Sheela Sangesh from the Narikuruvar community, with a visible sense of gratitude.
“There was inhibition among the villagers initially. However, the couple would motivate people by stating the phrases of Mandela and Ambedkar,” said Adbutham, another resident. Flower beading, selling ice creams and making bags are few jobs taken by the community people in the village....