(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 06, 2013
Casteist Forces and Recent Developments in Tamilnadu
TO draw narrow political advantage, strengthen their vote bank, direct the attention of the people away from the issues concerning them, this trend of utilising the ‘Identity Politics’ has been growing throughout the country. We have to look into this issue in the background of the fast pace of implementation of the neo-liberal policies by the ruling classes. This cannot be said as a spontaneous or an accidental development. This is a trend designed by ruling classes and activities are planned accordingly in our country.
Many casteist forces are active, basing their activities on this caste politics, which is a part of identity politics. Many caste organisations standing within the confines of their caste, instigate caste hatred and mobilise people freely without any control. Caste consciousness is a factor inevitably linked to the bourgeois-landlord social system. These forces instigate people on the basis of certain old historical and fictitious events to project their caste; they propagate that their caste was a ruling power once and many castes were slaves under their domain; they are facing a decline now in that position and that should be stopped; for that all people of their caste identity should get united with their caste consciousness. This is the refrain of the campaign of their of caste fanaticism.
It is a matter of deep concern that this sort of mobilisation of the people castewise - the people who form the bulk of toiling masses and are backward is taking place. It is an attempt to disrupt the unity of working class. This attempt does not only scuttle the unity of the people belonging to the backward castes but provoke hatred and caste clashes against dalits who form a considerable section of the toiling masses. Such organisations make brazen declarations that dalits being at the lower rung of the caste hierarchy, the prestige and honour of their own castes lies in suppression of dalits. Because of this trend, dalits are severely attacked. We have to note that not only in other parts of India but in Tamilnadu also violence perpetrated against dalits is increasing in many cruel forms. These casteist forces are pitching up their demand openly that the Prevention of Atrocities Act which protects the legal rights of dalits should be withdrawn or be diluted by making some amendments. What does it mean? It means that they want freedom without any constraint to attack dalits and destroy and confiscate their properties. What else it can be? The data provided by National Human Rights Commission and National SC/ST Commission indicate that POA Act is not being implemented everywhere with firm determination. Pointing out certain incidents here and there, these organisations try to give a distorted view as if this Act is being abused widely.
The PMK is functioning as a political party projecting the caste politics; in the recent times they have carried out their activities in more intensive ways. This party faced rout in both 2009 elections to parliament and 2011 elections to state assembly and lost their vote-bank considerably. It is now trying to take such caste politics forward to regain the lost influence and strengthen their vote-bank. Opposing dalits is the basic criteria of their caste politics. They try to mobilise people belonging to the Vanniar community behind them strongly, by advocating their hatred towards dalits. Today the democratic and Left forces wield strong influence among the people of that community. Only a section of the people of that community stands behind the PMK. In order to have a change in this correlation of forces, they indulge in serious caste mobilisation activities. As a result of this, a feeling of insecurity has developed among dalits in Tamilnadu, particularly in the northern districts. So it has become the much needed immediate task for all to safeguard the lives and properties of dalits, protect the unity of all sections of the people including those of Vanniar community and foster working class unity and social harmony. The PMK in order to project their politics of caste conducted Vanniar Youth Resurgence Conferences on April 14, 2012 and April 14, 2013 (called as spring full moon festival). Those who have democratic consciousness will shudder in shock if they read and hear the speeches delivered by the PMK leaders Dr Ramadoss, Anbumani and Kaduvetti Guru at these conferences; they have poured venom and hatred against dalit people; leaders of other caste organisations were invited to that conference and they also contributed to that hate-campaign and spoke against dalits. There was no doubt that they had given the call for caste fanaticism in that conference.
We can see that the attack on dalit people in Dharmapuri district as a continuation of that hate campaign. This attack was carried out following the love marriage between Ilavarasan, a dalit boy and Divya a girl belonging to Vanniar community. There is no doubt that this attack was perpetrated against the concept of love and inter-caste marriages. But we cannot miss the basic factor underlying this attack which was the hatred against dalits.
Following the Ilavarasan-Divya love marriage, the PMK leader Dr Ramadoss indulged in a blatant campaign that dalit youth wearing jeans and black (cooling) glasses are trying to lure girls from other castes. Further, the father of the girl, Nagarajan was subjected to humiliation and insults by these casteist forces. He was pressurised to produce Divya and Ilavarasan before the caste panchayat. As that did not happen, he was insulted and humiliated; heart-broken by this he committed suicide. If this is not an ‘honour’ killing by casteist forces, what else is it?
Flaunting his dead body they mobilised a crowd, instigated them against dalits which resulted in the attack on dalits and ransacking of their properties and houses at Natham, Kondampatti and Anna Nagar villages of Dharmapuri district by that crowd.
The problem did not end with the attack in Dharmapuri. The destructive acts of caste fanaticism continued and keeping Divya-Ilavarasan marriage as the centre of the problem, caste mobilisation was taken up. Even the realm of judiciary did not remain isolated from this trend. The same casteist forces utilised the situation in the court arising out of Habeas Corpus petition filed by Divya’s mother; even though Divya has returned home on hearing the information given to her that her mother was unwell, it was a strange development. The court proceedings were continued; many lawyers functioned as errand men for these caste forces. During the court proceedings, Divya declared “I want to live with Ilavarasan” and then “I am in a state of confusion, allow me to live in peace”. Despite these statements, the case was not closed. Only when Divya made a statement without apportioning any blame on Ilavarasan “I want to live with my mother for the sake of my mother and brother”, the case was closed. It is really a regrettable thing, as people had felt it that way, even the judicial proceedings fell into the vortex of caste.
The casteist forces did not rest even after that. Keeping Divya-Ilavarasan episode within the caste boundaries they picked up the campaign of slander. In such a situation, the death of Ilavarasan happened. Ilavarasan’s body was found near a railway track at Dharmapuri. It created a lot of controversies; till this date a debate is going on as to whether his death is a murder or suicide. In our opinion the death of Ilavarasan is nothing but another incident of ‘honour’ killing.
The campaign of casteist forces on this question is still continuing; a cacophony of voices is being heard against inter-caste and love marriages. This is not a new voice in the Indian society. Though it could be the voice heard for a long time in the past, it is being projected now with new vigour. Is it not a cruel act when 300 houses in three dalit residential colonies have been destroyed condemning Divya-Ilavarasan love marriage as a crime? Further those caste fanatic crowds gathered and shouted before the residences of the persons who had gone through inter-caste marriages five, ten years before. Is it not a gruesome perversity?
We can understand why these casteist forces are angry against the recent inter-caste marriages. In the social history, we may note the endogamous system of marriage had an important part in sustaining the caste formations. Dr Ambedkar in his research material has strongly expressed his revolt against this system of marriage. In the Indian society, caste consciousness has been entrenched deep for which the above noted system of marriage had been the shield.
If inter-caste marriages are held widely that will lead to the destruction of the caste system. That is why the casteist forces, getting alarmed of this development, cry hoarse and shout in anger. The PMK having formed a front of such caste formation has been making much noise about this. We could see its impact in many parts in the state and also in the media. In many areas of Tamilnadu, inter-caste and love marriages are being questioned. The Left and the democratic forces that stand for social reform should get into action and encourage inter-caste and love marriages.
THE LEFT & DEMOCRATIC
As the casteist forces go ahead with their politics of caste and opposition against love and inter-caste marriages, it is important to note that the movements and struggles of the Left and some of the democratic forces opposing that politics of caste are gaining momentum. When three dalit colonies were attacked and their properties worth crores of rupees were destroyed, the CPI(M), the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front and many organisations such as the Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA) rushed to that place and extended help. The above organisations and DYFI, AIDWA and SFI units and the AIKS units have collected a relief fund of Rs 25 Lakhs for their immediate needs and distributed the same. Various movements also were conducted by these organisations in support of the victims of that attack.
The CPI(M) and the TNUEF organised widespread protest demonstrations in Tamilnadu. During the protest demonstrations, we raised the demand for a CBI enquiry into the incident of Dharmapuri and the death of Ilavarasan, arrest of all persons who carried out that criminal assault against dalits and their properties and filing of criminal cases against them including under Prevention of Atrocities Act and also the demand for construction of houses by the state government for those affected dalits and payment of due compensation to them under that Act.
A case has been filed by the TNUEF raising the demands referred to above in the High Court and it is being processed. Some other organisations also have filed cases. An interim order has been issued through which Rs 7.50 crore has been sanctioned as relief to those affected dalits in Dharmapuri district.
At different centres in Tamilnadu, conferences popularising inter-caste marriage and felicitations to those who broke the caste barriers in their marriages and also demanding the government to enact a new law for prevention of ‘honour’ killings and ensure the safety of the couples who had inter-caste marriages were organised by the TNUEF, Tamilnadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association and units of the AIDWA. Many activists and leaders of dalit and democratic organisations participated in those conferences. A small booklet was published by the TNUEF and thousands of copies were distributed in support of inter-caste marriage and exposing the activities of casteist forces throughout Tamilnadu.
A powerful protest demonstration was held in Chennai jointly by the CPI(M) and CPI condemning the casteist forces. Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi (VCK) organised protest demonstration against those casteist forces in many parts in Tamilnadu; it conducted seminars in support of inter-caste marriages. The Dravider Kazhakam (DK) held conferences in support of inter-caste marriages at Dharmapuri and Chennai. The leaders of the Left and democratic movements participated in those conferences and seminars.
The above noted developments are important events held in Tamilnadu in recent times. These activities have played significant role in projecting an outlook among the people against the politics of caste. Agitated over these developments, the PMK publicly abused in a most uncivilised manner the leaders of Left and those dalit leaders and leaders of democratic organisations who stand for social harmony. The interventions of the Left and democratic forces have greatly diffused the tension created by the activities of the caste organisations in Tamilnadu. However we cannot ignore that in many places this issue remains like a simmering fire. The Left and democratic movements should be vigilant about that and intervene in time.
BOURGEOIS PARTIES –
While the casteist forces in Tamilnadu are trying to create a dangerous situation, we have observed with dismay and sorrow the activities of Dravidian parties like the DMK and the AIADMK. As for the DMK, they issued a formal statement criticising the PMK’s activities and they did neither take any concrete step to stop the casteist campaign nor conduct any movement to strengthen the atmosphere for breaking caste barriers and for inter-caste marriages. The DMK’s vote-bank politics stands in the way of it in opposing the PMK’s politics of caste.
The AIADMK also did not express any opinion about the speeches made by the PMK in their Vanniar Youth Conference and about the attacks on dalit people at Dharmapuri. Refusing to order a CBI enquiry, the AIADMK government ordered a CB-CID enquiry. The ministers also did not express any opinion in the state assembly about the attacks at Dharmapuri; there was hesitation to take action against those who carried out the attack. Emboldened by the complacent attitude of the AIADMK government, the PMK in its 2013 Vanniar Youth Conference made speeches with caste fanaticism; again emboldened by the action of PMK, their cadre indulged in attacks against dalits at Marakkanam, committed vandalism and destroyed public properties including transport vehicles. Only when the law and order situation was affected due to repeated violent incidents carried on by the PMK, the AIADMK government started taking firm steps in this regard. Dr Ramadoss and Kadivetti Guru and other leaders whose hate-speeches provoked violence were arrested. Many caste fanatics who caused disturbance to public peace were arrested. Unlike their silence over the developments in 2012, some of the actions taken by the AIADMK government in 2013 are quite welcome. However the AIADMK’s opportunistic stance as a party is evident in its silence and in not expressing any firm opinion about the developments.
Further the promulgation of order under Sec.144 is still in force even after many months have passed since its promulgation. It cannot be accepted that the ban under Sec.144 should have its sway in many parts of the state for such a long time while inaction persists from taking strong measures against those caste fanatics; this ban affects the democratic movements and also those of the oppressed dalits.
Even parties like the Congress, BJP, DMDK and MDMK did not come forward to confront this trend of caste fanaticism. All the bourgeois parties have taken this opportunist line as they need “caste consciousness” to strengthen their vote-bank politics. It is also true that those Tamil nationalists groups whose voices were raised vociferously on human rights violations in Srilanka were completely silent when dalits in Tamilnadu were attacked.
Tamilnadu is a state where strong social reform movements had been organised. The role played by Periar EVR is a significant one in this regard. The Red Flag movement conducted strong movements and struggles, merging in them the resistance to the class and caste oppression faced by the people in the erstwhile East Thanjavur (Nagapattinam - Tiruvarur) district. Even now with the same perspective, struggles are being carried out. Various oppressed dalit organisations conduct struggles for the welfare of the dalits. Even though the PMK tried to create social tension, the dalit organisations like the VCK acted with restraint to maintain social harmony. The TNUEF, being a broad democratic platform uniting many class and mass organisations has been organising democratic struggles for the rights and upliftment of dalits for the last six years. Many social activists, intellectuals are raising their voice against these casteist forces. They want social justice in Tamilnadu. In general, the people of Tamilnadu have always been drawn to the concepts of secularism, social harmony and social justice. As and when this tradition of the people of Tamilnadu is merged with the role played by the aforesaid progressive forces, it is certain that all the casteist forces will be thrown out.