The Madras High Court on Monday questioned the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to allot different burial and cremation grounds for Dalits, PTI reported.
Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad initiated a suo motu public interest petition on the basis of recent news reports that a Dalit man’s body was lowered from a bridge in Vellore district for the last rites because caste Hindus had barred access to the cremation grounds.
After the video went viral, the Tamil Nadu government had ordered that 50 cents (1 ⁄ 100th of an acre) of government land be allotted for the creation of a crematorium for Dalits.
The court said the government was only promoting caste segregation through this action. “By allocating separate burial ground to the ‘Adi Dravidars’ [Scheduled Castes], the government itself appeared to be encouraging such practice,” it said. The judges added that each citizen of the country was entitled to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and sought to know the reason for having separate space to bury people based on their caste.
The judges asked why common burial or cremation grounds could not be established when entry to temples had been opened up to everyone irrespective of their castes. They also questioned why there were separate schools for “Adi Dravidars” despite orders to remove any names that denote caste from public roads and buildings.
The High Court directed the Vellore district collector and the tehsildar to submit details of the land used by the villagers in and around the burial ground and file a report on earmarking separate space.
The judges concluded that graveyards were places to rest, The Hindu reported. “We wish the dead ‘Rest in Peace,’ but on the facts and circumstances of this case, we could see that there is no peace for the living as well as the dead,” the court said. “We only pray that our religious heads would also address the mass about equality, fraternity and brotherhood.”
The court will next hear the matter on Thursday.
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