A man who set himself on fire at the Madras High Court campus in Chennai Tuesday afternoon, succumbed to burn injuries Wednesday morning. He died during treatment at Kilpauk Government Medical College and Hospital in the Tamil Nadu capital.
The deceased, identified as Velmurugan, 45, a mason in Padappai under Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, reportedly took the step after he and his family members were ‘denied’ a community certificate by government authorities.
In a letter allegedly written by Velmurugan, which was shared by his family with indianexpress.com, he had said that members of the Kuravar community – an indigenous tribe in Tamil Nadu – like him were not getting the community certificate as authorities failed to differentiate between them and the Narikuravar community.
“We do not have any connection with Narikuravars who are also known as Akkibikkis. They originate from other states unlike us who belong to this land. They need to be provided a separate certificate and should not be merged with Kuravars… All the Kuravars should be given the Malaikuravar certificate,” the letter read.
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Meanwhile, Velmurugan’s wife Chitra, 38, along with their three children, and social activists, among others, staged a dharna inside the hospital near the mortuary refusing to receive the body. They have placed a few demands before the government which included providing them a community certificate, a government job for Chitra, and financial aid to support the family.
Chitra said her husband had been fighting for the community certificate for close to five years.
“He wanted a community certificate not just for the education of his children but for the whole community. We approached all authorities in Kancheepuram and Sriperumbudur but no one helped us. All of them ridiculed us, no one was ready to listen to us. We need a community certificate; my husband is no more but his sacrifice should not go in vain. He deserves justice. The chief minister should see this and help our community,” she said.
The social activists gathered at the hospital said both Kuravars and Malai Kuravars should be brought under the Scheduled Tribe category under the name ‘Malai Vaazh Makkal’.
“The incident shows the ineffectiveness of the government. He (Velmurugan) had been visiting several offices… A few days ago he was informed that his application form cannot be processed. He was depressed and visited the Madras High Court Tuesday to meet a few officials and seek help but he was ill-treated there as well and hence he set himself on fire…” said Saravanan, general secretary of an organisation that works for the welfare of the Kuravar community.
Police personnel were deployed at the hospital Wednesday to avert any untoward incident. The social activists and family members of the deceased claimed that unless their demands were met, they will not leave the hospital.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Kancheepuram collector M Aarthi said the authorities had acted as per the legal procedures.
“The demand (to bring the Kuravar community under ST Category) has been there for several years. It is not in our hands; it cannot be processed in a day and due procedures have to be followed. Velmurugan belongs to the Kuravar tribe which falls under the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. The revenue divisional officer (RDO) has rejected his application form as it lacked proper proof. Everything is online and the RDO mentioned in his remarks why the form was rejected and what it lacked. The members can appeal to the district-level committee and if their form is rejected there as well, they can approach the State Level Scrutiny Committee (SLSC),” she said.
According to DT Next, Justice SM Subramaniam of the Madras High Court Wednesday initiated suo-motu proceedings in the incident.