The price one pays for being HIV positive

ANCHETTY (KRISHNAGIRI): A kattai panchayat in Sesurajapuram village in Krishnagiri district assumed “extra constitutional powers” and fined a woman recently. Her supposed sin: she is HIV infected.

The Hindu

ANCHETTY (KRISHNAGIRI): A kattai panchayat in Sesurajapuram village in Krishnagiri district assumed “extra constitutional powers” and fined a woman recently. Her supposed sin: she is HIV infected.

Santhana Mary, whose husband, a victim of the dreaded disease, died one-and-a-half years ago, lives with her aged parents in the village with two daughters (fortunately not infected by the disease).

Mary ekes out a living by selling milk. Some youth, including a certain David, are alleged to have abused her on August 21. A distraught Mary told her parents about the incident and also her four brothers working as weavers in Erode.

When Marys mother Anthony Ammal went to Davids house to enquire about it she was said to have been beaten up and kicked by David and his father Arokyam. Her brothers – Ravi, Charles, Gnanaprakasam and Yesu – came to the village the same night. They went to Davids house to protest against the ill-treatment meted out to their mother and sister.

On August 22 some villagers went to Marys house and took her brothers, aged parents and a neighbour Periyasamy to the Anchetti police station alleging that they had damaged Davids house.

With the help of the police, village elders led by Marya Prakasam, a postman in Sesurajapuram village, reportedly conducted a kattai panchayat outside the police station and fined the family Rs. 30,000 for damaging Davids house. Marys brothers pleaded before the panchayat that they could pay only Rs. 15,000 and that they needed at least two weeks to pay the amount.

Mary, her brothers and parents were, however, detained by the police. A head constable on duty is alleged to have collected Rs. 2,000 from them to release them. A mediator (between the villagers and Marys family) Sandhiyahoo is said to have taken another Rs. 3,000 for food to the villagers who had come to the station.

Marys brothers came to the village from Erode on Sept. 12 with Rs. 15,000. Not content with this, Mr. Sandhiyahoo forcibly took a motor cycle belonging to Mr. Periyasamy, who had gone with the brothers, in lieu of the balance amount of Rs. 15,000. The vehicle was then handed over to the villagers who took the fine amount but refused to return the vehicle.

This was the last straw for Mary and her family. They petitioned the District Collector at the weekly grievances day meeting in Krishnagiri on Sept. 14.

The Collector, V.K.Shanmugham, directed the Superintendent of Police, A.G. Babu, to take appropriate action. Mr. Babu reprimanded the policeman who took Rs. 2000 and directed Sub-Inspector R. Manickam to retrieve the motor cycle and Rs. 15,000 from the villagers to return to Marys family.

Mr. Manickam got the vehicle back but is alleged to have asked Mary and her family members to give a written statement that David and her family had previous enmity. They, however, refused to give such a statement.

Mr. Manickam let the villagers off on Tuesday (Sept. 15) evening, but detained Mary and her family members, including the aged parents, till 11 p.m.

It was only at the intervention of Mr. Kumar, president, Krishnagiri District Living with HIV AIDS Welfare Society, that Mr. Manickam released them, after getting an assurance that they would come to the police station on Wednesday (Sept. 16) morning.

The vehicle is still with the police and Mary has not got back the Rs. 15,000 she had paid as fine. Mr. Manickam evaded a query as to whether any action had been initiated against the kattai panchayat but said he had registered first information reports against both the parties.

The police on Wednesday arrested Marys father Kannupaiyan and brothers Gnanaprakasam and Ravi and villagers Kuppu, Thammayan, Francis, Sesu alias Sesurajan and Arokyaraj. They were produced before the court in Denkanikottai which remanded them to judicial custody.

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