People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 04, 2007
Front For Elimination Of Untouchability Formed
THE CPI(M) and mass organisations in Tamilnadu have conducted a number of struggles, surveys, special conventions and seminars against untouchability for the past several years. Direct action such as temple entry, entering the public roads where upper caste people reside, and other movements against two glass system in tea shops, refusal of hair cut to dalits etc., was held during this period. Because of these campaigns and struggles, the strength and influence of the CPI(M) and mass organisations has increased considerably. More than 30 percent of the Party members are from SC/STs and more than one third of the strength of the mass organisations belongs to these oppressed sections.
Recently the CPI(M) took up the issue of Arundadhiyars, the most oppressed section of the caste system. Mostly Arundadhiyars are sanitary workers. Struggles against removal of nightsoil manually by Arundadhiyar community had a good impact among these masses. The other jobs done by this community include clearing the carcasses of dead animals, tannery work, digging graves, cremating the human dead bodies, carrying death message to villages, stitching old chappals and shoes etc. In many parts of the state, they carry out their jobs under social compulsion. Any refusal is met with severe punishment. The CPI(M) is campaigning and demanding liberation of these masses from slavish jobs. Educationally and economically, the Arundadhiyars are most backward among all castes including dalits. Therefore , the CPI(M)’s demand for a sub-quota in reservation for Arundadhiyars is widely welcomed by broader sections in Tamilnadu.
District level rallies were held in Virudhunagar wher 5000 people participated. In Dindugal 6000 people, in Salem 2000, Tirunelveli 6000 and in Ramanathapuram 2000 people took part. When state level rally was organised by the CPI(M), more than 20,000 people mainly Arundadhiyars, participated from all over Tamilnadu.
Because of these struggles organised by CPI(M) the government of Tamilnadu conceded some demands. The chief minister of Tamilnadu held talks with the CPI(M) team led by N Varadharajan, state secretary. Representatives from Arundhadhiyar organisations also joined with the team. After discussions, the welfare board for sanitary workers was formed by the government in which three members (two from CPI(M) and one from Arundadhiyar organisation) as suggested by the CPI(M) were included. The government issued orders changing the slavish name of vettiyan as crematorium assistant and government time scale was fixed for them. Individual orders have been issued to 178 persons in Chennai Corporation. The local body minister has assured that such orders would be issued shortly in other corporations, municipalities and other local bodies. In another government order, the roadside cobblers have been covered by the welfare board formed for leather workers.
TALKS WITH GOVT AND VICTORIES
The chief minister assured the CPI(M) leaders to form a government committee for considering the sub-quota in reservation for Arundadhiyars. He also assured the construction of memorials of freedom fighters Ondiveeran, Kandan, Potti and Muthan, who belonged to Arundadhiyar community. The CPI(M) has submitted 15- point charter of demands to chief minister and he assured that the government will consider other demands in due course.
A new enthusiasm and confidence has developed among Arundadhiyar masses after CPI(M)’s struggle and victories. When statewide dharna was conducted in more than 100 centres by the CPI(M) for Arundadhiyar’s demands on July 26, 2007, these masses participated in huge numbers along with CPI(M) volunteers. Most of the Arundadhiyar organisation functionaries in Tamilnadu joined hands with the CPI(M) in all the struggles.
NEW FRONT AGAINST UNTOUCHABILITY
In this background, a new front called “Front for Elimination of Untouchability” has been formed in an extended meeting attended by several mass organisations and dalit organisations of Tamilnadu. The meeting was held on August 16, 2007 at Madurai Leelavathi hall under the chairmanship of Samuelraj. N Varadharajan addressed the meeting and P Sampath, CPI(M) state secretariat member introduced the report explaining the objectives of the Front. State level leaders from CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, DYFI, AIDWA, SFI and mass organisations of middle classes such as government employees, teachers, insurance, general insurance, bank, BSNL besides transport, electricity, construction, port & dock and local body workers federations also participated in the meeting.
A large number of dalit organisations namely Tamilnadu Arundadhiyar Co-ordination Committee, Aathi Thamilar Peravai, Puratchi Puligal Iyakkam, Tamilnadu Arundadhiyar Democratic Front, Tamilnadu Aathi Andra & Arundathiyar Maha Sabha, Tamilnadu Arundadhiyar Sangam, Arundadhaiyar Mahasabha, Dravida Makkal Vidudalai Katchi, Dr Ambedkar Peravai, Dr Ambedkar Kirama Makkal Manida Urimai Iyyakkam, Kalam and Navajeevan Trust also attended this meeting. These represented nearly 30 lakhs of working people cutting across all walks of life in the state.
A good discussion on the issues concerning dalits and future functioning of the front was held. Everybody assured of co-operation and participation in the front. A dalit leader in the discussion told that mobilisation of non-dalit masses for the cause of dalits will really create more enthusiasm and confidence among dalit masses. The meeting finally adopted a resolution unanimously. The meeting also formed a state level organising committee for the front with 44 members with P Sampath as its convenor. Formation of this front created enthusiasm among the cadres of CPI(M) and mass organisations. It has created confidence among dalits that the Front will function as a champion of their cause. The Front has called on all the mass organisations, democratic forces, dalit organisations and Human rights organisations to join hands with the Front for elimination of untouchability in Tamilnadu and in the struggle on dalit issues.
FRONT’S CALL FOR STRUGGLES
The Front’s first meeting was held on September 15, 2007 at Tuticorin, a port-town in Tamilnadu. All the representatives of the affiliated organisations attended this meeting. Some new organisations also joined the Front. This meeting discussed future programmes and activities of the front. Finally, it has decided the following programme of action.
Demonstrations against untouchability and recent atrocities committed on dalits at Madurai and Virudhunagar on September 26, 2007.
A special convention against untouchability at Sivagangai in the month of October’07.
A seminar at Tirunelveli in October for effective implementation of PCR Act, the Act against the atrocities on dalits and other similar Acts.
A special convention for elimination of manual scavenging to be conducted by the Front and Federation of local body workers at Salem in November.
An art and cultural festival at Trichy focussing elimination of untouchability and upholding dalit cause will be conducted.
The first conference of the Front will be held in the later part of 2008 at Tuticorin with a mammoth participation of dalits and other masses.
The meeting finally thanked Tuticorin people for hosting the meeting.