People's Democracy

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


No. 40

October 07, 2012





TNUEF Successfully Conducts

Direct Action against Untouchability



EVERY year, the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) organises direct action programmes on September 30, in the memory of Comrade B Srinivasa Rao, whose death anniversary falls on that day. On earlier occasions, all the issues that were raised on that day were successfully resolved.


This year also, it was decided by the state committee of the TNUEF to conduct direct action programmes at eight districts Coimbatore, Erode, Salem, Tiruvannamalai, Tiruppur, Vellore, Pudukkottai and Dindigul.



The highlight of the programme was the temple entry movement at Coimbatore. The city that has a nickname of "South India's Manchester" has many skeletons in its cupboard. It is the TNUEF that has opened it and exposed the menial treatment meted out to the oppressed sections. Dalit Arunthathiyars and other dalits were denied entry into Kalappatti Mariamman Temple. Kalappatti is the place that has been recently merged with the Coimbatore Corporation and located just a few kilometres away from the airport.


Entering into the Mariamman Temple had remained just a dream for these dalits for almost 50 years. Last year, the TNUEF had organised a demonstration to demand the entry of dalits. Even then, the district administration was not moved. Hence this struggle was taken up as part of state level direct action programme that was planned by the TNUEF. Keeping in mind the impact that is going to be created by the struggle, the district administration called both the sides for talks. But, no concrete proposal was put forth by the administration.


As decided, the TNUEF had announced that it will go ahead with the agitation. On September 30, dalit Arunthathiyars, other dalits and working class belonging to other communities led by P Sampath, president, TNUEF, P R Natarajan, MP, R Athiyaman, founder-president, Athi Thamizhar Peravai, V Ramamoorthy, district secretary of the CPI(M), U K Sivagnanam, district secretary of TNUEF along with more than 2,000 people had entered the temple.


It was an emotional event for most of the people who took part in the programme. For the youth of that area, this was the maiden event, since they had never entered the Mariamman temple. It is also important to note that a sizeable section that took part in the struggle belongs to non-dalit community.



There were three other agitations which forced the district administration to come to table. In Erode district, Vaavikkadai village, there is an Annamar-Madurai Veeran temple. This temple itself belongs to the dalits. Refusing to cut hair for dalits is one among the various untouchability practices here. Five years ago, a dalit youth raised voice against this practice and insisted that he be given a haircut. Caste Hindus have resisted this and also imposed ban on entry into Annamar - Madurai Veeran temple. For the last five years, dalits have kept raising this issue but no solution was found by the district administration.


Hence, a decision was taken by the Erode district unit of the TNUEF to conduct direct action programme by organising the people. It was also announced that A Lazar, MLA and K Samuel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF will lead the temple entry programme. Sensing the mood among the people, the district administration had brought both sides to have a discussion. At the meeting, it was decided to allow dalits into the temple. On September 29 itself, (one day prior to the direct action programme day) dalits had entered the temple and offered prayers to the deity. In fact, people from both the sides were together during the temple entry.



Dalit people of Kattumarakkuttai village, Salem district were being denied entry through the common path. At the other side, an individual had not only blocked the path but also made out a plot and sold it. He also tried to build a wall to separate the area. This was not only resisted by the dalit people, they demolished the illegal structure with the help of DYFI and TNUEF cadres earlier. But, the common path was denied to the dalits. A decision was taken by the Salem Unit of TNUEF to lay the road as part of direct action programme on September 30.  R Annadurai, MLA, S K Mahendran, ex-MLA and other leaders of various organisations were to lead the programme.


Response to the announcement of struggle was tremendous. The administration had called for talks on September 29. After the talks, the administration had announced that it is a common path and everyone has the right to utilise it. Also, they had given it in writing that the road will be laid within three months.



A wall was built to prevent the dalit people to have access to the main Road at Marianathapuram, Dindigul. The TNUEF unit of Dindigul district had decided to convene a press conference on September 12 and announce the direct action programme to demolish the wall. Just prior to the conference, P Sampath, president, TNUEF had visited that area and had a look at the wall. In the meantime, the administration of Soundararaja Mill wrote a letter to K Bala Bharathi, MLA, agreeing to have the wall removed. People themselves took up the job of demolishing the wall and did that on September 12 itself.



Denial of path for dalits residing in Ambedkar Nagar, Kalasapakkam was the issue raised by TNUEF Tiruvannamalai district unit. It has called for a direct action programme on September 30. Hundreds of people had gathered to take part in the programme. K Balakrishnan, MLA, G Latha, ex-MLA, R Jayaraman, treasurer, TNUEF, M Veerabadhran, district secretary, CPI(M) who were leading the struggle were firm in moving ahead. Seeing the response to the agitation, the district administration had agreed to lay the road immediately. Also, there was another issued related to the Panchami land. In that too, the administration had said that it has no objection to lands put to use by the beneficiaries.



At Naduvelampalayam, Palladam Panchayat in Tiruppur district, 5.2 acres of Panchami lands were occupied illegally by the caste Hindus. Further, they had also decided to sell the lands after preparing layout. To stop that and to distribute the land to the dalits, the TNUEF unit of Tiruppur district had called for a direct action programme. The struggle for retrieval of land was led by K Thangavel, MLA, S K Mahendran, ex MLA, S R Madhusudhanana, district secretary, TNUEF and others. Hundreds of people took part in the programme. District administration was forced to come forward for the talks.


In the talks, they had agreed to stop the sale. An order will be sent to the sub-registrar in this regard, they assured. It was also agreed, to find out the new beneficiaries, another round of talks will be held.



An untouchability wall was raised near the Padavettamman Temple at Walajahpet in Vellore district. A call was given by the TNUEF unit of Vellore district to have the wall removed through the direct action programme. People from various parts of the district had responded tremendously to the call. Despite the atrocities committed by the police, hundreds of people gathered to demolish the wall. Many people were arrested by the police on the way to take part in the struggle. Leaders of the struggle K Bhim Rao, MLA, K Samuel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF, N Gunasekaran, state secretariat member, CPI(M), P Sakthivel, district secretary, TNUEF and others were arrested by the police. After the arrest, the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) came and held talks with them. It was agreed during the talks that further talks will be held on October 10 and till that time, the further construction of wall would be stopped.



86 dalit families were given land at Karambakkudi in Pudukkottai district and they have been issued pattas. But, they have been denied access to the lands given to them. The TNUEF unit of Pudukkottai district had decided to enter the land on September 30 as part of state level direct action programme. Hundreds of dalit people and people belonging to working class came together to wage the struggle. The programme was led by Nagai Mali, MLA. Initially, the officials were trying to sidetrack the issue by saying that they needed the original pattas. People had rushed to get the same and produced it. Again, the officials resorted to delaying tactics. People were firm in waiting till the outcome of the struggle. Despite the negative attitude of the officials, the struggle continues in Pudukkottai.


In the last assembly session, the chief minister kept repeating that there are no untouchability practices in the state. The direct action programme and the Campaign programme that was conducted in the second week of August has exposed the government's claims. The no untouchability balloon was punctured. The state government has announced that there will be a reward of Rs 10 lakhs to the village that is free from untouchability.


Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Bahujan Samaj Party, Athi Thamizhar Peravai, Adhi Thamizhar Viduthalai Munnani, Athi Thamizhar Jananaayaga Peravai and other democratic, dalit, progressive organisations have taken part in the programme. The state committee of the CPI(M), through a statement, had demanded the state government to sort out the issues immediately. In a statement issued by the TNUEF, P Sampath and K Samuel Raj have congratulated and greeted the organisations and the people who took part in the direct action programmes. Further, they have stated that the struggle to eradicate untouchability will be intensified in the coming days. There will be no letup in the gains that have been achieved in the last few years, the statement said.