Criminalizing Scheduled Tribes in Post Independence State

Even after the declaration of Independence, most of the communities in Tamilnadu which were declared as “Criminal Tribes” during the Colonial Era are still treated as Criminal groups by the Tamilnadu Police; which tries to fill the vacuum left after the conclusion of British rule.

Irular is one of the communities which too was criminalized by the British colonial Government. Early-modern literature about the Tribes India is the work of Edgar Thurston’s “Caste and Tribes of Southern India”, in his literature, he propounded about Irula Tribe that the most of population were agricultural-landless laborers and sometimes involved in cattle thefts. From this, we can rationally conceive about the role of socio-economic condition played to involve them in small theft crimes.

As the introductory portion began with the historical background of classifying the communities as criminal tribes, in the post-independence state the Tamilnadu police treats scheduled tribes as criminals, particularly Irulars and kuravars.

In a recent case that happened in Perichipalayam of Dinduigal, the police of Alangiyam Police station, Tripur District kidnapped the three Irula community men who have been working in a small-sized brick factory for the past 8 months. They were paid 0.70 paise to cut a brick. On 25/07/2021, Midnight 2:00 AM un-uniformed police officials of Alangiyam police station came up with some local villagers and questioned about the theft to Sivakumar, Ashok Kumar & Vetrivel, they refused that they didn’t do anything and were not aware of what they were questioning. The above police officials threatened them to appear in the police station and put signatures.

Arrested Persons details of Alangiyam Police Station, Tripur on 25/07/2021.
Arrested Persons details of Alangiyam Police Station, Tripur on 25/07/2021.

After the sunrise by 9:00 AM, the Alangiyam PS officials appeared on three bikes and kidnapped them to the police station. While Anjammal – the wife of the victim, visited the station in person she was informed by the three that they were brutally tortured by police officials. Even after the illegal arrest and abduction of Alangiyam PS officials had been brought up to the attention of Tripur, Dinduigal & Vilupuram SPs, the authorities failed to discharge their duties and all the three innocents were remanded under 379 IPC for a fake copper wire theft case.

Image attached as details of victims.
 Family of Victims.

This police excess was brought to light after the families of victims informed it to the Professor Prabha Kalvimani of Palangudi Irular Pathugaappu Sangam. Prabha Kalvi Mani a.ka. Professor Kalyani a well-known academician and Human Rights Defender who has been legally battling against the more than 700 fake cases put up against the Irulars. After the fieldwork of Professor Kalyani, filing up fake cases against Irulars has been somewhat reduced in the surroundings of the Vilupuram District. But police excess against the Kuravar community in other districts continues and leads to many custodial deaths.

By taking chance of Tribal communities’ weak financial conditions, they are traditionally exploited in small-scale industries as underpaid laborers, and on another side, Tamilnadu police use the lack of political power of Scheduled Tribes as the chance to close the pending unsolvable cases. They’re having the strategy of making these innocents as accused in many cases and inform it to the nearby station, they too put up the pending cases against the innocents.

According to the Census 2001 data, only 0.5% of the total population of Irulas completed their graduation and above, which amounts to just 778. Lack of having proper permanent settlements made them migrant laborers and the hesitation of government officials to provide community certificates to continue their education, made them drop out of school and completing college as a non-touchable dream.

Will the Government take stringent actions against the officials who play with the liberty of Scheduled Tribes? Have to wait and expect justice.