(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 3, 2013
Full Stop to Untouchability at Kokkampatti
YET another page of success was recently added to the history of Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF).
In Karur district, Kokkampatti village is situated at the outskirts of Karur Municipal Corporation, and about 300 families of caste Hindus and 23 families of dalit Arunthathiyar caste have been living there. These dalits were subjected to worst kind of untouchability practices for a long time and this state of affairs continued despite minor opposition from some dalits. They cannot walk through the streets of caste Hindus while wearing chappals. In the ration shop, dalits were made to stand in a separate queue. They would get their due only if any ration was left after its distribution to the caste Hindus. On the road which separates the two areas, dalits could not ride on two-wheelers and they needed to get down about half a kilometre earlier. In the Anganwadi and Mid0day Meal Centres, there were separate plates and tumblers for dalit children and students. They needed to carry these things home and bring them back the next day.
During a festival that was held towards the end of December 2012, Krishnamoorthy, a dalit, was attacked by the caste Hindus for wearing chappals while he was near the stage where some cultural programme was going on. When this news spread, the TNUEF, Athi Thamizhar Peravai (ATP), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and other organisations intervened. Leaders of these organisations went to the village and enquired about the situation there. They found that all types of untouchability practices as are mentioned above were being practised there in the village. Hence these organisations decided to stage a demonstration in front of the tehsildar's office. However, no action was taken even after that. Therefore it was announced during the demonstration itself that the next stage of agitation would take place on January 9, 2013.
During his speech, K Samuel Raj, general secretary of the TNUEF, had announced that while wearing chappals dalits under the leadership of the said organisations would walk through the streets on January 26, the Republic Day. It was also announced that K Varadarajan, a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, would lead the agitation. This announcement enthused the rank and file of the CPI(M) and the mass organisations led by it.
However, the district administration still did not bother to resolve the issue. On the contrary, just a day before, the administration tried to prevent the agitation programme from taking place while not making any sincere effort itself.
On January 26, hundreds of people belonging to the CPI(M), TNUEF, ATP, VCK, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, women's and other organisations assembled on the main road in the village. K Varadarajan led the agitation along with Nagai Mali (MLA, Kilvelur), K Samuel Raj (general secretary, TNUEF), K Kandasamy (district secretary, CPI-M), U K Sivagnanam and Ganesh (state secretaries of the TNUEF), P Neelavendan (Treasurer, ATP), Tirumaran (deputy general secretary, VCK) and others.
In view of the tremendous response and the number of people assembled, the district administration then agreed to initiate talks. The leaders insisted that all the issues must be settled and whatever assurances were to be given must be given in writing. A team led by Nagai Mali, MLA, then went along with the officials to the village where an agreement was signed. After that, dalits walked through the village streets while wearing chappals. The elders from the caste Hindu families too assured that there would be no untouchability practice whatsoever in the village thereafter. On this victory K Varadarajan congratulated the people who had assembled there for the agitation. Before that, he garlanded the statue of Periyar, and announced that we would be found wherever atrocities are being perpetrated. He also insisted that the Kokkampatti struggle must not be considered as over and that such struggles must be launched at all such places where untouchability is being practised.