People's Democracy

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


No. 01

January 02, 2011



Untouchability Modernised!




UNTOUCHABILITY practices are going "modern" now. This was evident from the recent exposure in Nagarajapuram, a village that is there in the outskirts of Coimbatore city. In the name of resettling the dalits, they were driven to almost no man's land years ago. But the expansion of the city and its sub-urban areas brought them near again. So the profit minded real estate companies have resorted to a new strategy to keep dalits away from their area. Blocking the way for dalits to have access to the area, they expect the value of the land to remain high. 


This has happened in many places and Nagarajapuram was no different. In this place, hundreds of dalit families are living since 1976. The real estate promoters have built a wall that was measuring 10 feet in height and 2 feet in width and the length is close to a kilometre. To have direct access to the main road, therefore, most of the people had to take many extra steps. The building of the wall did not happen overnight. But the landowners of the other side did it clandestinely. It was carried out during the last two years. Dalit people on the other side woke up only when the last 30 metres length of the path was closed.  


A team led by U K Sivagnanam, district convenor of the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (THUEF) recently visited the spot. When the team was convinced that this is an untouchability wall indeed, TNUEF decided to take up the issue. Next day, Tamil daily Theekkathir prominently published the news and that created tremors in the administration. At the very first sight, the officials were convinced that the wall was unlawful. The sketch for the plots also showed a 30 metres path. The people also complained to the officials that the closure of the path had made them feel like imprisoned. The only hitch was that the wall itself was on the border of not only for two panchayats but of two taluks as well. This did not deter the TNUEF to press for the demolition of the wall. A series of agitations was planned.  


Expecting a backlash, the district administration acted fast lest there was some mass action. On December 25, revenue officials demolished two portions of the untouchability wall. These two stretches of 30 feet and 23 feet now provide the dalit people direct access to the main road. Though the structure has remained largely intact, the purpose of the land promoter has been defeated. Just after the demolition, one could find joyful women and children walking through the newly restored path.  


Uthapuram was just a beginning in of exposing the untouchability walls in Tamilnadu. Somebody sought to belittle its impact by saying that villages are yet to be radicalised. Another wall in Periyar Nagar, that is in the heart of "South India's Manchester," i.e. Coimbatore city, exposed that too. One more wall was found in the municipal limits of Trichy. Now in the news is Udumalpet, a small town in Tirupur district. A wall has been raised by a realtor to block the way for dalits.  


The world is getting modernised. Yet the caste oriented society somehow finds space to land its feet. The landing is atrocious. The TNUEF, through its well oiled machinery, has conducted many surveys. In its first state conference, a list of atrocities was released. But the recent problems have brought new varieties of atrocities. In another village near Coimbatore, a Dalit cannot talk on his cellphone in front of a caste Hindu. He has to switch off his phone or cut the call. When this came up, A Raja of the "spectrum" notoriety was the union telecom minister. This village falls in his constituency.  




Another incident of untouchability has crossed all the limits. One Mr Jayan had registered himself with in order to find a life partner. He is a Christian and was registered in that category. When a few proposals came for him, he surfed some of the profiles. In one profile, “caste no bar” was mentioned. He was happy to see that. But his happiness did not last for more than a moment. The very next column said "SC/ST excuse." Jayan was furious to see that. He did not stop there.  


He called up the contact number and blasted them. His argument was: people may prefer one or another particular caste in the matrimony ads, but how come these people could say, "we do not want these and these castes." He rang up a few newspaper offices to give vent to his anger. He said, “This is untouchability modernised. In fact, the website that offers this service should pull up its socks. The software that serves the purpose of casteist requirements should be thrown away by the” 


The TNUEF had listed around 85 types of atrocities committed upon dalits in Tamilnadu. In the states where the survey has been done, Gujarat stands first. As many as 99 types of atrocities have been listed by the Navsarjan, a non-profit voluntary organisation. It seems that Tamilnadu is now poised to take Gujarat over by creating new, "modern" types of atrocities.  

The impact of the agitations run by the TNUEF is being felt. The people have started looking up to the TNUEF for solving their problems concerning social issues. Uthapuram is leading from the front. Wherever an untouchability wall is found, people take inspiration from Uthapuram. The unsolved problems in Uthapuram make the people more steely. The TNUEF has announced a series of programmes for the next year. The year 2011 is going to be an eventful year for the TNUEF. 




CPI(M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan released the quarterly magazine of TNUEF, Venmani, at Venmani village on December 25, 2010. The quarterly is named so in the memory of Venmani martyrs. It was in the fitness of things that the magazine was launched on the day of their martyrdom. In less than a month of the announcement that such a magazine is going to be launched, insurance employees belonging to the All India Insurance Employees Association mobilised 1,500 yearly subscriptions for Venmani. The first issue of Venmani has come out with the draft charter of demands including the incorporation of a dalit sub-plan in the state budget.