In December 2022, after five Dalit children in Pudukkottai district's Vengavayal village fell sick due to diarrhea and vomiting and were hospitalized on December 24, villagers were alerted by the doctors of possible water contamination. Upon inspection by the local residents, the common water tank was found contaminated with human feces dumped in it.
On January 11, 2023, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin criticized the incident in the state Assembly calling it reprehensible and disgraceful, two weeks after the Vengavayal caste crime episode, the case was transferred to the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) on January 14 by the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police (DGP)
The case has been refreshed in our memories along with the many atrocities against Dalits, Dalit women, and politicization of Dalit issues as TN Governor RN Ravi took a hit out at the ruling party over instances of caste-based oppression in the state with a "so much for social justice" jibe, since the party claims to be a champion of social justice and Ambedkarite values, as per media reports.
During an event at Chennai-based Anna University, while speaking on BR Ambedkar, Ravi recounted the incidents of caste-based crimes and misuse of state funds meant for community welfare programs. "We have been talking so much about social justice. But, every other day here some atrocities against Dalits," he said during the release of Tamil versions of the books "Modi@20: Dreams Meet Delivery", and "Ambedkar and Modi - Reformer's ideals, performer's implementation".
Describing Ambedkar as a 'nationalist', he also said that BR Ambedkar is at present being used for political gains and mobilization. He also called the actions and response of the state and law enforcement in cases of Dalit atrocities as 'awful' adding that there was only a seven percent conviction rate in cases of rape of Dalit women. "Out of 100 rapists, 93 go scot-free, and we talk about social justice and Babasaheb," he said. Quoting a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), he said 30 percent of the central allocation of funds meant for housing for Dalits goes unspent, and the remaining, major part, is diverted "for some other purposes". Ravi also alleged that Dalit children are separated from others in Anganwadi centers.
The governor's statement has added fuel to the ongoing tussle with the ruling party that has accused Ravi of undertaking 'unconstitutional' behavior. Ravi has also been charged with promoting and fulfilling RSS and BJP agenda in the state where the BJP faces negligible presence. The DMK had recently adopted an assembly resolution to record only the official approved speech after the Governor skipped a few parts of the speech including references to BR Ambedkar and Periyar. Later, the governor also stoked controversy by suggesting a name change for the state.
The ruling party has shot back to the governor's statements, saying it was the DMK government which ensured elections were held in three reserved panchayats where polls weren't held earlier, or elected chiefs were forced to resign by dominant communities s per an NDTV report. Challenging Ravi's conviction rate aspersion, DMK spokesperson TKS Ilangovan said that it is among the highest in the country and that these rates are much worse in northern states. "Tamil Nadu has a better conviction rate. In north India, it's much less. Scheduled castes still don't come forward to testify. It's a challenge," Ilangovan said.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) annual report, published on August 29, 2021, atrocities and crimes against scheduled castes increased by 1.2%. (50,291 cases) compared to 2020. While untouchability has been outlawed by the Indian constitution since 1950, the Atrocities Act is the first statute to specifically classify all verbal, physical, and “political, ritual, or symbolic violence” against Dalits and Adivasis as crimes or “atrocities.” However, despite numerous revisions and three decades since its first introduction, the act has not resulted in a significant shift in society. Further, very few cases get filed under the Atrocities Act resulting in convictions, and most never ever reach the courtroom. Dalit and Adivasi atrocities have been reduced to political bouts for political parties as the communities await justice.