Villupuram- In Manalapadi village, a dedicated group of young individuals from the Dalit community has been managing the Bhimrao Ambedkar Evening Tuition Centre for over a year, providing education to more than 40 students in classes 1 to 8. However, a recent directive ordering the closure of the center has ignited criticism, especially considering the ongoing educational challenges faced by the Dalit community in Tamil Nadu.
The news has gained traction on social media, with questions raised about the DMK Party's stance on Dalit issues. People even questioned whether the closure contradicts the party's supposed support for Dalits, especially considering Periyar's legacy.
The tuition center, managed by social activists, caters to economically disadvantaged children. The classes, conducted in a building maintained by a women's self-help group, have been in operation for the past year. The center not only focuses on academics but also encourages students to participate in sports and yoga, fostering holistic development.
Speaking anonymously to The Mooknayak, one of the founders expressed their determination to continue providing education despite the setback. Despite facing resistance from local politicians, they took the case to the district level, engaging in discussions and seeking intervention from the Collector's office.
The founder said, “A lot of politicians have been against the institution. But when the notice of shutting it down reached us, we took the case to the district level. Currently we are in different rounds of discussions. We have contacted the Collector’s office. Sir has assured us that a positive decision will be taken regarding our centre. We too are hoping for good news.” He added, “We have been facing issues since a long time from the local leaders, so such a news was not a surprise.”
Talking about the working of the institution, he said, “Social activists are teaching the children who hail from a weaker financial background. The classes are held in a building which is maintained and worked upon by a women’s self-help group. Apart from the regular academics, the students also are given the opportunity to involve themselves in extra-curricular activities. He added, “Students are encouraged to take part in sporting events and yoga.”
Meanwhile, one of the coordinators told the media that members of the DMK party in the village are responsible for closing down the center. According to him, they are worried that the center might influence children politically and be used against the ruling party. The DMK members argue that with the Illam Thedi Kalvi scheme already in place in the village, there's no need for a tuition center like theirs. The coordinator believes this decision is politically motivated.
This news has been garnering a lot of social media traction, with many questioning the ruling DMK Party. A political enthusiast took to X (formally Twitter) to ask, “Bhimrao Ambedkar Evening Tuition Centre in #TamilNadu's Manalapadi village, run by a group of Dalit youngsters, was forcefully shut down by DMK members. Doesn't DMK Glorify Periyar? "
The closure of the tuition center, as claimed by the women from the Self-Help Group (SHG), is attributed to necessary repairs. In few of the media reports, K Ranjitha, the president of the women's self-help group scheme, claims , the Bhimrao Ambedkar Evening Tuition Centre had to shut down due to a damaged ceiling, requiring essential repairs. A request has been submitted for the building's renovation to the DRDA department.
Additionally, instructions from the BDO office prompted them to stop lending their building for other schemes or departments, emphasizing the use of the space for the Mahalir Thittam scheme.
Ranjitha clarifies that the closure isn't against the concept of tuition; it's about finding a well-maintained building. P Sakthivel, another coordinator, stresses the team's request for the district administration's intervention. They are urging authorities to find an alternative location for the tuition center, prioritizing the well-being of the children. DRDA sources suggest the possibility of the children joining other tuition centers in the village or organizers arranging for a private space to continue their services.
In the category of Atrocities/Crimes against Scheduled Castes, Tamil Nadu witnessed a rise in reported cases, increasing from 1,144 instances in 2019 to 1,274 cases in 2020 and further to 1,377 in 2021. This marks a 16.92% increase in cases over the span of two years.
Nationally, the data indicates a 9.7% increase in reported cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes from 2019, with figures rising from 45,961 cases to 50,900 cases in 2021. Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of such cases, constituting 25.82% of the total, followed by Rajasthan at 14.7% and Madhya Pradesh at 14.1% in the year 2021. According to the NGO Evidence’s executive director A Kathir, 450 cases have been registered under Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, between November 2022 to January 2023. This data excludes 4-5 districts, whose numbers were not available. Pudukottai district tops the list in number of atrocities that have been reported against the Dalit community.