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    Denied Access to Cremation Grounds, India’s Lower Caste Villagers Air Drop their Dead from Bridge

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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Debarred from taking a route reserved by members of an upper caste community for themselves, some villagers in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have to face the ignominy of not being allowed to carry their dead from there even for cremation.

    The only alternative for these villagers is to airdrop bodies from a bridge and then take them to the cremation venue on the banks of the river. 

    These villagers, belong to India’s lower caste or Dalit community, and so they are forced to carry their dead to a 20-foot high bridge and lower the bodies from there to get to their cremation grounds to perform the last rites, Indian daily the Times of India reported.

    The bizarre reality has been a common sight on the banks of the River Palar in Narayanapuram Village in the state’s Vellore District for the past four years.

    A heart-wrenching video of the body of a dead person being lowered to the river bank for cremation went viral on Wednesday.

    The body of the Dalit person was identified as that of 55-year-old Kuppan, a resident of the Narayanapuram Dalit Colony. He died in a road accident last Friday, the daily reported.

    A relative of Kuppan said when they tried to take his body through a short route leading to the river's bank; watchmen guarding that path refused them entry, saying it was passing through farmland belonging to upper-caste Hindus.

    To avoid a clash, the Dalit villagers used a cradle made of wood to carry the body to the bridge and airdropped it from there. After that, some of them used another path to reach the place of cremation to perform the man's last rites.

    Narayanapuram Dalit Colony resident Krishnan said: "As we have been denied entry, we are using cradles to lower bodies from the bridge. Over the past four years, we cremated four bodies like this. Kuppan was the latest."

    Krishnan said they have been cremating their dead on the riverbank since there is a deficit of space in the village crematorium.

    A section of netizens expressed concern that such discriminatory practices still exist in 21st century India.

    ​Another group of netizens said using the term “upper castes” insinuated that those belonging to them endorse this bizarre practice in spite of strict laws being in place to prevent social discrimination in the country.

    Dalits in the village said they don’t face direct caste discrimination or threats, but said there was a need for the district administration to remove illegal encroachers and encroachments.

    The Vellore district administration said it is probing the incident.

    In India, caste refers to hereditary classes of Hindu society. In ancient times castes were determined by an individual’s professional capabilities. Over a period of time, class distinctions were distorted to such an extent that it led to inter-community competition, conflict, disagreement and dissatisfaction. This further resulted in widening the gap between communities. Societal discrimination worsened over time, allowing for excessive political intervention and what is commonly referred to as caste politics.

    Caste conflict in Indian society has deep roots for political and economic reasons. Upper castes generally refer to land-owning castes, while lower castes comprise of marginal and underprivileged rural people. The Scheduled Castes of which the Dalits are a significant component, invariably refer to socio-economically disadvantaged rural dwellers.

     

    Tags:
    bridge, Denied, Cremation, caste, villagers, Tamil Nadu, India
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