People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 02

January 10, 2010

TAMILNADU

 

DYFI Organises Vigorous Protest Actions Against Untouchability

 

S P Rajendran 

 

DECEMBER 25 is a historic date in the history of class struggle in Tamilnadu as it is associated with the Venmani martyrs. It was on this day 42 years ago, on 1968, when the oppressed and suppressed agricultural workers of East Thanjavur region in Tamilnadu faced a cruel attack from the landlords while fighting under the red flag for a rise in their wages. At the peak of this very movement, goons hired by the landlords burnt to death 44 agricultural workers, including women and children, in Keezha Venmani village.

Every year since then, tens of thousands of working people from all parts of the state attend the Red Salute programme at Venmani, organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Commemorating the day on December 25 this year and linking the elements of class struggle with the struggle against untouchability, the Tamilnadu state committee of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) organised direct actions against the various forms of untouchability. Thousands of youth joined these protest actions, and this struggle for the rights of dalit people scored remarkable victories in five places.

Of these places, Kokkarayanpettai in Namakkal district is the seat of nearly 1800 years old temple of Brammhaligeshwara. This temple is under the Hindu Religious Endowment Ministry of the Tamilnadu government. However, for a long while, the dalit people were denied the right to enter the temple by the caste Hindus of the village. To break the shackles of this cruel untouchability, the DYFI announced a temple entry struggle here. Under the pressure of the DYFI protest, then, the government officials arranged a tripartite talk and the caste Hindus agreed to allow the entry of dalit people into the temple. On December 25, dalit people of the village successfully entered this temple, accompanied by the DYFI state president S G Ramesh Babu and others.

At Mathur village in Nagapattinam district, the dalit people, who were not able to exercise their right to enter the Mariamman Temple, organised under the DYFI banner and successfully entered the temple. After the DYFIís announcement of a temple entry programme here, the concerned officials did hold talks with a group of DYFI leaders and a group of villagers, but it failed to soften the adamant stance of the caste Hindus. The officials then announced that dalit people would enter the temple under the protection of a police force. Some caste Hindu elements did challenge this decision, closed the doors of the temple and virtually sealed it. However, under the leadership of the DYFI, hundreds of dalit people including women gathered in front of the temple when a slew of government officials with police force broke open the doors of the temple and asked the dalit mass to enter the temple.

At Kottaiyur village in Trichy district, the dalit people had had no right to walk with their footwear on and were not allowed to enter the local temple. The DYFI and the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) announced a protest programme against these customs. Here also, the government authorities intervened and held talks. Caste Hindus relented under the pressure of these officials and dalit people successfully entered the temple.

In Tiruppur district, it was a different experience. At Koduvai village in this district, a saloon shop owner had constantly refused to employ the dalit Arundhadhiya people, because it was a shop meant only for caste Hindus. Recently, when some flag carrying DYFI cadres assembled in front of this saloon shop, the shop owner closed the doors and personally mobilised caste Hindus of the village against the DYFI cadres. Then the concerned officials intervened.

Another form of untouchability has been destroyed broken at Palaya Pattinam in Cuddalore district. Though there is a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar in the village, dalit people could not use the common streets of the village to approach the statue for garlanding it. The DYFI decided to lead the dalit people of the village in a programme to use the common village roads for reaching Dr Ambedkarís statue and garlanding IT. Here, government officials sided with the caste Hindus and sent a police posse to the village in opposition to the DYFI programme. Nearly 300 policemen, carrying long lathis, then occupied the entire area around the statue. All the streets were sealed. However, hundreds of DYFI cadres and dalit people mobilised and held a road roko action. The protest action lasted for nearly two hours. Then the police arrested all of them.

In all the above villages, some tension did prevail and the DYFI state committee urged the state government to take necessary steps to maintain peace and protect the rights of dalit people. But the chief minister of Tamilnadu, M Karunanidhi, criticised the DYFI that the latter was out to disturb the law and order in the state. State DYFI leaders S Kannan and S G Ramesh Babu rejected the claim of the chief minister and vowed to continue the struggle against untouchability.

Apart from organising such direct actions, DYFI cadres participated in a large number of demonstrations and other actions against untouchability in as many as 12 districts.

P Sampath, leader of the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), and DYFI leaders including R Velmurugan, L Shanmuga Sundaram, S Muthu Kannan, S Bala, T V Meenakshi, S Lenin and others participated in these protests.