By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
In Tamilnadu, PMK, the party of Vanniyars is on a dangerous path as it want government to set up a commission to find why love marriages are happing between Vanniyars and Dalits. The Party also want to campaign against SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Can anyone imagine that such rhetoric’s are coming from a responsible political party in world’s largest democracy?
It is shocking and surprising to see P.M.K. party in Tamilnadu has come out in open against the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and want to get it amended as it feel that the Dalits are filing false charges against non Dalits. There may be some reality on these counts and it became a bone of contention in Uttar-Pradesh when Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kalyan Singh raised the banner of revolt against it and Mayawati herself had asked the government officials to verify each fact before file a case against the accused. Of course, Kalyan Singh said that he would immediately abrogate this article and many others also supported him. The SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is a bone of contention for all the non Dalits and non-tribal who violate their rights on daily basis and feeling constraint by the constitutional promulgation.
After the Dharmapuri incident, PMK party is unable to reconcile to the fact that police has taken action against the culprits. The party of Vanniyars, which claims to be the most backward community, has never tried to mend its ways and ally with the Dalits. It is tragic that after a meeting of his party colleagues, PMK leader came out openly against love marriages and claimed that they are happening because the Dalit boys are wearing Jeans, T-shirts and goggles. S.Ramdos, the president of PMK mentioned that Dalit boys lure the Vanniyar girls and get married to them deliberately to kill the caste consciousness of Vanniyars. According to him these so-called ‘love marriages’ never succeed because of caste differences and hence the Tamilnadu government must form a commission headed by a High Court to look into the matter of fake cases against Vanniyars.
Tamilnadu’s violence against Dalits have diverse pattern and particularly the powerful OBCs like Thewars and Vanniyars have lead from the front to hit at the Dalits. There are land relations too as most of the dalits are agricultural landless workers and any attempt to ask for fair wages is met with stronger violence. Untouchability is practiced strictly in many parts of the state and Dalit hamlets are quite isolated. The problem is that little efforts were made to bring the Dalits and other communities together as question of Dalit identity and self-respect get sidelined in the non-Brahmin self-respect movement or Periyar though he launched a historical movement in Vaikom for the temple entry of the Dalits.
Actually, what Ramdoss said reflect the political survival tactics of his party which had vanniyar domination. It is a fact that after Dharmapuri incident a number of Vanniyars have been arrested on charges of violence against Dalits and SC-ST act has been used as the Vanniyar caste group burnt about six villages of Dalits after the incident. As a political party, Ramdoss cannot afford to lose sight of the vast vote bank of his party and hence he has no other option but to turn more right wing and caste-iest when he demanded that SC-ST Act must be amended and that he would organize all other communities who are victim of it. Actually, the language and political overtures of Ramdoss are similar to that of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar-Pradesh who wants to capitalize the entire non-Dalit vote bank for his party in the coming elections and hence ridiculously opposing the quota for dalits as well as targeting them politically. Very little has been done to win them over. The dilemma of these parties comes from a strong sense of identity and self-respect among the Dalits who have refused to cow down to these threats.
Unfortunately, political compulsions as well as sticking to retrogressive old values in the name of tradition are hall mark of politics. There are very few people in Indian system who opposed these traditions openly and unambiguously and yet succeeded. One of them was Periyar who opposed the Justice movement to be a political party as it would amount to compromising ideology. Periyar was an absolutely radical reformer who stood with women’s right over her body and encouraged self-respect marriages. He condemned Hindu marriages as sale of the bride and wanted marriages be performed only once the boy and the girl have understood each other. It is rare that his movement got wider public acceptance and success.
One cannot expect anything radical from a street rabble rouser like S.Ramdoss who perhaps only wanted to highlight his caste issues. If he had ever thought that there is a wider Dalit Bahujan movement, he would not have spoken the language that he was speaking against the Dalits contemptuously as if the Dalit boys and girls cannot wear jeans and T-Shirt. These statements are not quoted out of context but Ramdoss has spoken them in his press conference and in front of TV cameras. Clearly, he was sending signal to his constituency of Vanniayars that he justify their demand as love marriages are happening because of the Dalit boys are now ‘asserting’ themselves. Actually, what Ramdoss said reflect the caste Hindu mindset related to Dalit assertion. They forget that the shudras fought their battle of identity on the very same basis when the Brahmins used to tell them that they do not deserve and have no capacity to run a government or an office. The PMK arguments are racist and caste-ist in nature and must be condemned. It reinstates the values that Dalits cannot and should not live with dignity, with their head high and that love marriages must be stopped. Actually, Ramdoss’s statement is a clear negation of Indian constitution which guarantees the individual’s right to choose their partners. The forefathers of our constitution did not hand over the individuals to their caste leaders to decide about their fates but to the individuals themselves.
While Periyar’s movement tried to build up an ideological ground against Brahmanism as he actually brought an alternative to the people in the form of ‘self-respect marriages’ and a greater social interaction among various sections of society. The movement became so powerful that it jolted the governments of the day and resulted in formation of ‘Justice Party’. However, Periyar was always believe that the social movements should remain beyond politics as a politician he would make compromises and would not be able to adjust with those compromises while social movements should remain powerful enough to make the government bend on its demands. His colleagues and comrades did not think that way and felt that way and came out of the Justice party to form DMK under legendary Anna Durrai and formed the government. There is no doubt that under Anna’s leadership Tamilnadu grew and propagated the ideals of social justice yet it got split later as ambitious clashed resulting in formation of All India Dravida Munnaitra Kadgam which was softer towards the upper caste and catered the Dalit votes too. In the aftermath, we have seen how both the Dravidian parties continued with their flirtation with Hindutva forces too resulting in dilution of their original philosophy and converting their parties into personal fiefdom and family companies like Congress Party.
P.M.K continue to remain isolated as it feels that it would gain strength from the community support. Unfortunately, there is no attempt by PMK to reconcile with the fact that the Dalits too have right to progress and that many of them have reached high. Is PMK worried about the fact that more and more Dalit boys and girls are getting educated and migrating to cities and are successful in their lives. Is it the fault of the boys only to ‘allure’ the girls? Can’t we leave this to two individuals who decide to get married? Why does PMK want that the choice of two individuals to decide about their partners be stopped? Is the PMK’s identity is only related to Vanniyars being higher than Dalits in the caste hierarchy?
Actually problem here is also with the girls who are ‘symbol’ of ‘community’ ‘pride’ and has to be won over. A vanniyar girl’s marriage to dalit boy is an ‘assault’ to the big ego of the Vanniyars who feel that Dalits cannot be equal to them. But in the larger context it is very similar to the Khap Panchayats in Haryana who are now feeling that love marriages are a threat to India and must be stopped. The reality is that it is the loosening of control over their community which is the biggest worry of such parties and leaders. The more and more our individuals decide about their marriages and choices, the lesser will be the control of these self-styled champion of community identity.
Hundreds of boys and girls from Dalits, backwards and even the so-called upper castes are marrying out of their choices and against all the odds. Love has never stopped even when hurdles were created for them. Political parties and social leaders must not get away with the ground realities these days. It is not the issue of boys and girls having their choices but growth of education which gives us senses to decide about our lives. The only way to stop the ‘love marriages’ is stop educating our children and allow them to live in their ‘khaps’ and not allow them to watch TV or read any books as the more they read and open up, the bigger will be their curiosity to know about lives of millions others who do not take permission to get married elsewhere. The writ of Indian constitution must run large over our villages and among our political parties who swear by the constitution and yet behave exactly the opposite of it. The social movements of those claiming to follow Periyar, Ambedakar and Phule should now take lead to penetrate among people once again warning them of the dangers of such caste mindset who are afraid of opening up and want to keep people subjugated forever.
Let India not become a hurdle in defending its youth who decide to live together because they loved. Let love does not become a dirty word to kill someone or show our superiority over others. Love transcends boundaries and even ideologies. These love marriages are not happening now but it happened for years. A fairly large number of our political leaders and opinion makers have challenged the status quo and married in other castes. All this do not happen with a planning but because they fell in love and love knows no caste and religion. The only thing is that while marriage is a personal affair and none is asking to boast who you married yet for the sake of principles each one of those who have gone for a self-arranged marriage must come out openly in support of such marriages. It is not a great principle that while you enjoyed the fruits of ‘love’ marriages while clearly ignoring the issue when the question of society comes. Yes, we have people who married to the girls and boys from the community they abuse day and night and yet when the question of taking a stand, they deviate and do not speak. The silence of such people is detrimental to the heath of a strong social movement for equality as envisioned by Dr Ambedkar and Periyar. PMK’s actions are a challenge to the idea of equality of people and sexes and must be countered with reaffirming out faith in our constitution and its framework of respecting individuals and their choices. PMK want caste identity for votes while anti caste leaders want caste identities to be completely abolished and annihilated and hope the anti-caste movement will gather strength from here and win over people with the idea that these identities are false and based on brahmanical concept of superiority of some castes over others. Vanniyars too are victim of caste system and hence to make them support the caste system is treacherous and must not be condoned.