10 families in a village near Sattur in Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu who continue to face a form of silent social ostracism from fellow villagers almost 45 years after their forefathers were excommunicated over a murder.
Shanmugam, a member of one of these ostracised families at Kumareddiyapuram, said that a person called Poovalinga Thevar had allegedly killed Umayurupagam Chettiyar due to personal enmity 45 years ago. Even though Thevar went to prison for one-and-half years for the crime, the villagers decided to excommunicate him as well as his brother, although the latter reportedly played no role in the murder. “The incident happened when I was a child but even now people treat us as being excommunicated from the village,” Shanmugam said.
The nature of the social boycott has changed with children from these families now being able to go to school, conduct weddings and carry out business. However, the descendants of Poovalinga Thevar remain outside the mainstream, being unable to participate wholeheartedly in social events or temple festivals. “When there are marriages or deaths, few people invite us and when we go to such houses, people look at us suspiciously. They ask the host why they invited us,” Shanmugam claimed and added it was difficult for them to explain to kids in the community why they were being treated like this.
P Pitchai Kothanar, Poovalinga Thevar’s son, said the 10 families are not approached during fund-raising for the village temple festival. “Moreover, folk musicians who arrive for the festival, go to all houses to perform, but do not visit us,” he said.