There have been 81 cases of caste-related atrocities against Dalits during the lockdown in Tamil Nadu, resulting in 22 murders, eight attacks on Dalit neighbourhoods and violence against 134 people, according to a report by the Untouchability Eradication Front of the CPI(M).

The report was released by former Madras High Court judge S. Hari Paranthaman on Monday. Speaking to The Hindu about the report, K. Samuel Raaj, general secretary, Untouchability Eradication Front, said the State must acknowledge the crimes as caste atrocities and not as law and order issues.

“The front has office-bearers in every district, right down to the taluks. We document these atrocities and help victims take legal recourse. Over the last 11 years, people have started reaching out to us,” he said.

Demanding immediate action, he said vigilance and monitoring committees should be set up at the State and district levels. “The Chief Minister should head the State-level committee and the Collectors should lead the district-level ones,” he said.

“When caste clashes were on the rise in southern districts in the 1990s, a commission headed by retired Madras High Court judge Mohan identified unemployment as the main reason. People in villages are without work and this frustration is being taken out on Dalits,” Mr. Raaj said.

He criticised the mainstream parties for not coming out strongly against caste-based atrocities due to the fear of losing support of a particular community.

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