Arani Thurumbars Boycott Pongal celebration to claim their Land Rights at Irumbedu Thurumbar Nagar-2021
Artcle published in “dalitchristiansdigest.com” about the historic Christmas Celebration by and with Thurumbars
‘The Unseeables’ the Struggle of Puthirai Vannar Community: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Thurumbar Thulir Summer Camp 2015
02 – 10 May 2015 Sithanangur
The summer camp began on 02.05.2015 at St.John’s Hr. Sec. School campus, Sithanangoor, near Villupuram. There were 38 Children in the camp from around 9 villages from Thiruvannamalai and Villupuram districts. Three Jesuit brothers and 6 volunteers from Thurumbar community conducted the camp. The official inauguration of the camp was on 03.05.2015. Mr. John Peter, Correspondent of St. John Hr. Sec. School, was the Chief guest. Fr. Arul Valan, the animator and Sr. Alphonse, Co-animator of the camp gave a motivational talk. After the inauguration, orientation program began. Fun games were conducted as an ice-breaking session. From second day, classes were conducted in which special attention was given to subjects such as English and Mathematics. To improve the children’s self-confidence and self-esteem a special training program was arranged between 3 pm to 5 pm. Wu shu, a Chinese self-defence art was a major event of the camp. Students gained much from it. It empowered girls more than the boys. It was felt both by the children and the masters, that Wu Shu should be conducted throughout the year. The children were given good food during the camp.
Children empowered through Special Talks:
Mr. Thirunavukkarasu, a social thinker, gave a talk on Ambedkar’s life and struggle. He motivated the children to struggle to make their own destiny. Mr. Dalit Subbaiah gave a talk on the caste system in India and the ways to eradicate it. He spoke on the need for reservation. He taught two awareness songs on education, which made us to understand the need and importance of education. Sr. Alphonse gave a talk on nutrition food and women’s health and hygiene.
Various competitions were held during the evenings in which children exhibited their talents and creativity. Time for their personal study was also given, to train them to do it back in their homes.
Picnic to Ginjee Fort:
On 10.05.2015, the final day of the camp, a picnic to the historical Gingee Fort was organized. The children came to know the history of their locale. We spent 5 hours in the fort. Students enjoyed a lot. At 1 pm we had a grand lunch at our new building construction site. The children were excited to see the building coming up for their welfare. The children dispersed to their homes with much satisfaction and joy.
Summer Camp 2014
Summer camp for the Thurumbar children was conducted at the Don Bosco Campus, Jawadhu Hills, Tiruvannamalai district from 01/05/2014 to 10/5/2014.
There were 50 students who attended this camp. This was the first hill experience for the children. The 10 days were a good experience for the children. They visited the Observatory, which is the second largest in India, for the first time in their life. They had also an exposure visit to the Poultry, the Cobar gas plant, the Vermicompost plant, the home for the mentally challenged children. This was a memorable and enriching event. Besides, the children went on a trekking to the Bheeman falls. Classes on English, Maths and Science and other competitions that developed their extra-curricular talents were also done. A medical camp was also organized in collaboration with Don Bosco Jawadhi Hills and CMCH, Vellore. In fact this was the first time a variety of activities were available for the children together with the hill experience.
The National Human Rights Commission has sent a notice to the government of Tamil Nadu, to give a detailed report within 6 weeks, about the plight of the Puthirai Vannars with regard to the compulsory caste labour which is bonded labour. The notice was issued on 11.07.14
On 10.07.14, Fr.Arul Valan together with Mrs.Geetha, Kiran Kamal Prasad and other activists, met the Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, Justice KG.Balakrishnan and Member Justice Murugesan. We presented a memorandum to the commission stating the plight of the Puthirai Vannars of Tamil Nadu, who are forced to do compulsory caste labour to the dominant dalit communities, in the villages. We made a plea to declare them bonded labourers under the Bonded labour system (abolition) Act 1976, and take steps to redeem and rehabilitate them. The state of Odisha has done it having been directed by the NHRC.
Mr.Mani, a hindu Puthirai Vannar of Manalapadi village, Ginjee taluk, Villupuram district was found dead having been electricuted near the field he had taken on lease from a Reddiar family, on 07.02.2014. On enquiry and a spot visit by the TLM and independant human rights defenders and lawyer, found that he had been murdered as suspected by the family and relatives of the deceased, by the relatives of the Reddiar, who were against Mani cultivating the field on lease. They had threatened him on many occassions in the past.
On 08.02.2014, a road blockade was carried out by the dalits of the village together with TLM leaders and lawyers. The Thasildhar, DSP and other police officials gave an assurance that the accused would be arrested and the case registered under SC/ST PA Act. Nothing has happened as on 23.02.14. A counter case has been registered on the leaders of TLM, lawyer and other dalits of the village.
The very fact that Puthirai Vannars are born into that caste, they have to do all the compulsory dehumanizing caste duties. As a remuneration for their service, they have to collect the left-over food from other dalit homes and feed themselves. They are far away from ownership of house site, government housing and other schemes. A pilot survey in Chengalpattu taluk of Kancheepuram district, done in January 2014, reveals their plight.
The Puthirai Vannars joined hands with Irulars working as bonded labourers in brick kilns and Rice Mills and the stone quarry workers, in demanding rescue and rehabilitation of bonded labourers. The demand of the TLM was to include Puthirai Vannars under the purview of bonded labour abolition act 1976 and rehabilitate them. The Padhayatra was coordinated by the Unorganized Workers’ Federation.
The yatra commenced at Trichy on 07.11.13 and went through various districts such as Trichy, Perambalur, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Kancheepuram and concluded at Chennai, on 22.11.13. The 16 day padhayatra covered a distance of 320 kilometers, spreading awareness among the public and placing the demands to the various district administrations. The TLM apart from participating in the padhayatra, made arrangements for the night stays and food for the participants. At the culmination of the yatra, memorandum was submitted to the State Human Rights Commission and the Secretary, Adi Dravida Welfare Department.