People's Democracy

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


No. 30

July 25, 2010




Worst Form of Untouchability Exposed




IT was the historic conference on the theme of untouchability and its eradication, held in Pudukkottai in May, that set the tone. The decision of this conference of the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) was to take the struggle for social justice forward. To implement the decision in its true spirit, the conference also announced agitation programmes on two important issues.


The first programme was of conducting a demonstration on July 12, in front of the Madurai district collector office, demanding that the dalit masses living in Uthapuram must have the guarantee of their human and democratic rights. Those who took part in this demonstration faced brutal attacks. (See People’s Democracy, July 18 issue.) At the same time, the government also unleashed false propaganda regarding this issue. Leaders of the CPI(M) and the TNUEF have rebutted each and every point of this propaganda barrage in detail.


The DMK claims to be the true heir to the Dravidian movement. But has it not lost its sheen? The ruling party is now exposing its real face on every issue. The police attack on the anti-untouchability movement is an important point. However, circles within the ruling party itself  feel that the government is playing with fire.


Be that as it may, the violent police attack on the demonstrators in Madurai did not deter the cadres of the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front from holding yet another action within a span of two days. This time it was to demand the demolition of a wall that stands testimony to the prevalence of the worst form of discrimination in the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple. This was the second important issue on which the TNUEF state conference had decided to conduct an agitation soon.


The story, which dates many centuries back, explains the reason for the existence of the wall. It is said that the South Gate of the temple was permanently closed after Nandanar entered the temple through that gate. Nandanar, a dalit by birth, was a devotee of Lord Shiva. He used to sell leather drums and some musical instruments near the temples.


As Nandanar wanted to worship Lord Shiva in the temple, he once entered the temple through the South Gate. But the upper caste people burnt him to death for having defied their writ. After this heinous act, moreover, they floated an out and out false story that Lord Shiva had himself asked Nandanar to have a dip in the fire.


These false stories apart, the point is that the gate was closed because Nandanar, a dalit, had entered the temple through that gate. It demonstrates the mindset of the upper caste people who controlled the temple till recently. Though the state government later took over the temple, the South Gate has so far remained closed, as earlier. But the closure of the gate very much remains a symbol of untouchability and this symbol has to be demolished. This is what the TNUEF feels. Hence the struggle to press for demolition of the wall.


The state government’s contention was that the story of Nandanar is not fully authenticated. But the question here is not about the veracity of the story. This symbol that stands in front of you represents what? This is the question in the minds of the people. The present government is not ready to discuss this point and has been trying to divert attention by issuing statements of all sorts. The irony that one of the Dravidian parties, which claims the legacy of the anti-Brahmin movement and talked about Nandanar when the movement was at its peak, is now seen backtracking.


On July 14, nearly two thousand people assembled near Dr Ambedkar’s statue at Chidambaram, when TNUEF president P Sampath led them in a procession towards the South Gate. “Demolish the Untouchability Wall” was the main slogan of the action. The police did their best to prevent the cadres from going ahead when they reached near the South Gate. They told the leaders and cadres that concerned officials would come and talk to them. The demonstrators then sat down there in the middle of the road.


True, the RDO and tehsildar did come and meet the demonstrators. But they refused to concede the main demand. Not satisfied with the talks, the processionists then resorted to a road blockade. The police then arrested about 600 cadres including 60 women. Apart from P Sampath and TNUEF general secretary K Samuel Raj, leaders of some other organisations also took part in the agitation.


CPI(M) state secretariat members K Balakrishnan, P Selva Singh and P Shanmugam, the party's Cuddalore district secretary T Arumugam, state committee members S Dhanasekaran, Moosa and S K Mahendran, MLA, Tamilnadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association general secretary S Tamil Selvan, Ambedkar India Republican Party leaders A T Srirangan and Prakash, Human Rights Party leader L R Viswanathan, some leaders of the Aadhi Thamizhar Peravai Veeramurugu, and TNUEF Cuddalore district convenor S Durairaj were prominent among the protestors.


Speaking to the presspersons, P Sampath warned that the organisation would be forced to resort to direct action if the government failed to act.


Existence of such an Untouchability Wall is a disgrace to the society, commented CPI(M) state secretariat member K Balakrishnan.


The response that has been received by the anti-untouchability struggle has created tremors in the ruling camp. Hence, the brutal attacks by the police and false propaganda by the ruling party. But the TNUEF has resolved to intensify the struggle. Its state committee will be meeting on July 25 and 26 for finalising the further course of action. (July 22, 2010)