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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Dalit resigns within five minutes after assuming panchayat post

The Milli Gazette Online

Chennai: A Dalit candidate, V. Azhagumalai, who was sponsored by upper castes, won the Keeripatti village panchayat president elections, Madurai district, held on April 19 but resigned within five minutes after assuming office on April 23. The Dalit scored a huge victory against a challenger put by the Dalit Panthers of India. This is for the second time that a Dalit candidate who won the Keeripatti village election has resigned in deference to the wishes of upper caste people. 

Azhagumalai has written in his letter that he was resigning from the post because of his decision and that he was not being forced to do so. He opposed the SC reservation tag attached to Keeripatti village. "Dalits form only 13 per cent of the Keeripatti panchayat population, and reserving it for SCs is anti-democratic," he said. 

The upper caste landlords in Keeripatti and two other villages have been the sabotaging president elections just because the post is reserved for Dalits. The upper castes do not want to be administered by a Dalit, that too, a labourer working in their fields.

Azhagumalai scored 487 votes while his rival DPI candidate Poongodi, secured only 29 votes. 

The DPI had done extensive campaigning in the three villages Keeripatti, Pappapatii and Nattamangalam to break the domination of upper castes and to get local Dalits to come out to contest the post of panchayat president.
A Dalit leader has demanded that the state government should not allow Azhagumalai to resign as it will reaffirm the caste oppression against the Dalits. The upper castes in the three villages have been accused of not allowing a Dalit to become panchayat president. 

The DPI held demonstrations in 29 district headquarters protesting against the resignation of Azhagumalai. The party is also calling for a CBI probe into the death of Karayanapatti Narasingam, the DPI candidate for Papapatti, who died under mysterious circumstances. 

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