People's Democracy

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


No. 23

June 06, 2010




A New Era Has Begun




TAMILNADU Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has formalised the organisational structure in the just concluded first state conference at Pudukkottai. 33 months have passed since the TNUEF was formed. It is not just months, countless agitations were carried out by the member organisations under the banner of TNUEF.


A few months back, the SC/ST Commission visited Tamilnadu. Kamble, vice chairman presided over the team. When the TNUEF met him, he was surprised. He said, we have enacted many legislations against the untouchability. Is a Front for untouchability eradication still relevant, he asked.


A seasoned politician, he must be aware that mere enacting of a legislation will not solve the problem. As we all know, the ground reality is what decides the way forward. The situation in Tamilnadu demands such an organisation, which functions on a common platform. In fact, there is a vacuum in taking forward the struggles for social justice. And the TNUEF has taken plunge at the right time.


In the last three years, the units of the Front took up various direct actions. Demolition of untouchability walls, entry of dalits into temples, retrieval of paths to the cremation grounds, evacuation of encroachments made by caste Hindus and putting an end to various forms of discriminatory practices prevailing in the society were possible. Most of the struggles were successful.  In this background, the first state conference of Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front was held at Pudukkottai (a town situated in the central part of Tamilnadu) on May 28-29,  2010. The preparations for the successful conduct of the conference were done well in advance. Various trades unions, mass organisations of Pudukkottai district took up this challenge. They had even decided that the delegates from different organisations need not to pay fees as normally collected for the conferences. All the districts had street corner meetings with the leaders and the workers of TNUEF explaining to the people about the historical reasons to form the organisation and its impact on the society.  Jyotis were brought from Venmani(Nagapattinam), Melavalavu(Madurai) and Iduvaai(Tirupur). The conference was presided over by P Shanmugam, state general secretary, AIKS. It was inaugurated by K Varadarajan, general secretary, AIKS. In his inaugural address, K Varadarajan had underlined the importance of TNUEF at the national level. The TNUEF has busted the myth about Tamilnadu. The people, outside Tamilnadu, were thinking that the untouchability is not prevalent in this state, he said. 





P Sampath, convenor, TNUEF had presented the conference report. The report was exhaustive. It brought out the various struggles and experiences of the units of TNUEF. The report listed out the cruel manifestations and the atrocities that are being experienced by the dalits in the state. This list is incomplete. More surveys would bring even more stunning revelations, P Sampath said. Delegates representing the districts and various organisations took part in the discussions on the report. It is noteworthy that not even a single delegate had contradicted the report. Everyone had appreciated the efforts and insisted on carrying forward the struggle.  


420 delegates representing trade unions, mass organisations, more than 20 dalit organisations and those who were involved in direct actions against caste oppression participated. Among the delegates, dalits and tribals comprised 70 per cent. And the Arunthathiyars were almost 20 per cent. More than 15 per cent were women. The conference adopted the resolution to combine the struggles against caste oppression and class exploitation. The struggles and the rich experience gained in that were shared by the delegates.


V Karuppan, former IAS officer,  Kadhir, director of Evidence, an NGO that espouses dalit rights, S Kannan, DYFI state secretary and K S Kanagaraj, SFI state secretary, greeted the conference. R Singaravelu of CITU, S Tamil Selvan of TNPWA and S Thirunavukkarasu of AIAWU took part in the conference. Dalit leaders like R Adhiyaman, K Jakaiyan, Ravikumar and others took part in the delegate session. In the evening of the first day, anti-untouchability cultural programme was organised. Pudhugai Poobalam, a popular group enthralled the audience with their satirical programme. An art exhibition was also organised in the Town Hall, Pudukkottai.


On the second day, P Sampath had summed up the proceedings of the discussion. Then the delegates elected the office bearers. P Sampath, the present convenor was elected as president. K Samuel Raj was elected as general secretary and R Jayaraman as treasurer. 17 vice presidents and 17 secretaries were also elected. N Varadarajan, R Athiyaman, A Lazar, P Shanmugam, S K Mahendran, S Jakkaiyan and Kovai Ravikumar  were among the newly elected vice presidents. K Swaminathan, K R Ganesan, S Kannan, P Suganthi were among the newly elected secretaries. A state committee consisting of 98 members was also elected. Prakash Karat, CPI(M) general secretary greeted the delegates and addressed the conference.


Prakash Karat lamented the practice of untouchability. He said untouchability is the worst feature of the caste system in India and when the one’s mind is directed against all forms of untouchability and  discrimination, that is the beginning of the fight against the caste system in India. This is the first step to get rid of the hated untouchability.


The TNUEF should bring into its fold all who wish to end untouchability, to end all sorts of discrimination and also all who wish to work for an egalitarian society. He said, without fighting the caste discrimination, revolution is not possible in India and expressed belief that TNUEF will become a genuine instrument in bringing about a social change in Tamilnadu. He also congratulated the TNUEF for having taken up many struggles.





After the conference, a sea of men and women was witnessed by  Pudukkotai town. Thounsands of people took part in the rally. The rally was flagged off by K Varadarajan. In the public meeting, Prakash Karat, G Ramakrishnan, CPI(M) state secretary, N Varadarajan, Central Committee member of CPI(M), U Vasuki, state general secretary of  AIDWA spoke.


The future course of action was chalked out in the conference. The conference has decided to wage series of struggles putting forth various demands that include firm implementation of Prevention of Atrocities(against dalits) act, distribution of land and pattas, right to worship the deity in the temples, rights of dalit christians, proper implementation of sub-quota for Arunthathiyars within the reserved quota for dalits, release of movie on Babasaheb Ambedkar in Tamil, construction of memorial for Martyr Ondiveeran, reservation in private sector, filling up backlog vacancies, implementation of special sub-plan for dalits, increasing the percentage of reservation for SCs in line with their  population etc.





Few immediate direct actions were also planned in the conference. Chidambaram Natarajar(Lord Shiva) Temple is a very famous and historical temple. The south gate of the temple is permanently closed due to the fact that Nandan, a dalit came inside the temple to worship Natarajar. TNUEF has called for immediate opening of the south gate, failing which the Front will take direct action , the resolution said. Another immediate direct action is regarding Uthappuram. Though the wall is demolished, the passage is not ensured yet. A bus shelter, a normal requirement is denied to the dalits, though the fund is allotted through TK Rengarajan’s MP development fund. To realise these, an agitation is announced.


The mood was upbeat among the delegates, among the thousands of people who took part in the rally and  among the dalit organisations. One thing that was said by everyone was “It is going to happen”. One need not say ‘It’ means change. The general feeling about the conference among the people is that it is a turning point in the journey for social justice. They had the feeling that an era had just begun - era of change, era of finishing off of untouchability and era of removing discrimination.