‘Both the DMK and ADMK are equally to blame.’
‘When the question is violence against Dalits, they don’t take measures to protect Dalits.’

How different is Tamil Nadu from the rest of the country?

It is different as in, it has been ruled by two Dravidian parties for the last 50 years. Both the Dravidian parties, in particular the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has been crowing about social justice and equality every time there is a discussion on this topic.

What are the ground realities, however?

Very different, it would seem.

In three days last month Dalits have been attacked in three different districts — Krishnagiri, Perambalur and Tirunelveli — and Chief Minister M K Stalin has not commented on the issue.

AIADMK General Secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami — leader of the Opposition — has condemned the incidents, but more as a way of picking faults with the state government rather than being supportive of the Dalits.

Professor C Lakshmanan retired from the Madras Institute of Development Studies and is now the convenor, Dalit Intellectual Collective.

“It doesn’t matter which party is in power, they are not interested in protecting Dalits from violence,” Professor Lakshmanan tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com.

What happened in Krishnagiri district?

On October 29, Dalits in Chokkadi village in this district were brutally assaulted by a mob of around 200-300 Gounders.

It started with a temple being renovated. They were polishing granite for the renovation. Dalit houses which were nearby were covered with dust with the polishing done openly.

The Dalits complained to the contractor that the dust was causing them breathing problems and he should enclose the space as is normally done at all construction sites.

This led to an altercation and later a compromise was reached among the two communities. The issue was resolved by district officials who called both communities and hammered out a solution.

The same evening, at around 7.30 pm, a mob of Gounders attacked the Dalits and set a few houses on fire.

The police, instead of arresting the Gounders, arrested 13 Dalits who were hospitalised with injuries after the attack.

The AIADMK leader, who led the attack, has not been arrested. Newspaper reports say 23 persons from both communities have been arrested.

Reports say the police are looking for him. Looking for him is the excuse they give every time. They know where he is, but will not arrest him. He has not gone to Mars or the Moon; he is very much there in the district.

National Commissioner for scheduled castes Director S Ravivarman visited the village with the SP (superintendent of police) on November 4. They have said they will look into the problem. What they actually do is file a counter FIR against the Dalits.

They do it every time. If a Dalit files an FIR, the next day they file a counter FIR against him.

So when they think it’s time to compromise they agree to withdraw both FIRs. It is a time-tested solution to prevent the Dalits from getting justice.

The Tamil Nadu police and the political party involved does it every time. The idea is to nullify the Dalit complaint and they succeed with this tactic.

What happened in Perambulur district on October 30?

This happened in the premises of the district collector in Perambulur. Auction of granite was to be held that day after a protracted delay. A local panchayat president Kalaiarasan, who is a member of the BJP (Bharatiya Janana Party), also went there for the auction. The collector had invited all those who were interested in the auction to mine granite.

Transport Minister S S Shivashankar and MLA Prabhakaran along with DMK members prevented him (Kalaiarasan) from participating in the auction. They made him take off his pants and sit in one spot for more than an hour.

The auction was postponed. Whether it is auction of granite mining or auction of sand mining or auction of any government tender, or running of liquor bars, only ruling party members have been allowed to participate in Tamil Nadu. It is an unwritten rule and both the DMK and the AIADMK follow it scrupulously.

Later the local BJP in Perambulur protested against the police inaction against the perpetrators of their panchayat president.

Both the DMK and the chief minister have not uttered a single word about both incidents and no condemnation either. Their silence indirectly encourages violence and discrimination against Dalits.

What happened in Tirunelveli district?

On October 31 two Dalit youth who work in a cable company were returning home after work. On the way home they had a bath in the Tambiraparani river and were walking home.

They were accosted by six men belonging to the Maravar community who questioned about their caste. When they said they were Dalits they were brutally assaulted, stripped and robbed of their belongings which included mobile phones, debit cards and Rs 5,000. They were tortured and humiliated for six hours. They were urinated upon.

The Maravar men had been smoking ganja. Later the Dalit youth walked 2 km half naked to their homes; from there they were taken to and admitted in the Tirunelveli Medical College hospital.

An FIR was registered under the SC/ST Act and the accused have been arrested.

According to the police the Maravars were drinking liquor when the incident happened; they have all been arrested and remanded to judicial custody.

And, what happened in Nanguneri?

A Dalit youth in the 12th standard refused to attend school for more than 10 days. After intensive questioning by his mother and aunt he admitted that he was being harassed by high caste Hindu boys.

They took him to the school and lodged a complaint against the bullies. The same day, August,9, when the Dalit boy, 17, was sitting down for dinner, three of his classmates belonging to the Thevar community entered his house and attacked him with machetes. Both he and his sister, 14, suffered numerous cuts.

The police station is barely 300 feet from this house, but the police did not come for more than two hours. The Dalits blocked the road and only after that did the police come and take the siblings to hospital.

The siblings were taken to a hospital in Nanguneri and given first aid. They were then taken to the Tirunelveli Medical College hospital on bikes.

An FIR was filed and the youth arrested. Within a fortnight the attackers came out on bail and they are roaming free.

What happens next?

They will set up a commission. The government has set up a one-man commission with retired Justice Chandru heading it to find solutions to prevent these incidents.

These commissions will spend crores of public money preparing reports which no one sees. They are supposed to be tabled in the assembly and later action has to be taken by the collectors and SPs, but this has never happened.

There are commissions for violence against Dalits, there was a commission for the Tuticorin firing where 13 people died, nobody knows what action was taken after these commissions submitted their findings and suggested action.

For the Dharmapuri violence and alleged suicide of Ilavarasan, there was a Sampath commission set up, but nothing happened.

Both the DMK and ADMK are equally to blame. They take no action on any report. Even politically, when the question is violence against Dalits, both are inactive. They don’t take proactive measures to protect Dalits.

What about the Dalit parties like the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katch?

Since the VCK is in an alliance with the DMK they are in a catch-22 situation. They have this mantra on talking about aliens coming to Tamil Nadu and dividing society on caste lines and Sanatana. All crap! They are not doing anything.

It is one year since Vengavayal happened where human faeces were mixed in a water tank meant for Dalits.

Imagine if the situation was reversed and human faeces were mixed with water in a tank meant for other castes. They would have razed the Dalit houses to the ground, to ashes. They would have chopped up the Dalits.

What is the solution?

They are treating this as a law and order problem, but it is a political problem. We don’t know if the Dravidian parties are anti-Brahmin or not, but we certainly know that they are anti-Dalit from the beginning, even from the Justice Party days.

Every political party should have a clear-cut idea about how to stop this violence against Dalits. They should come out with a systematic action programme and also address seriously their party members and cadre.

The police cannot do anything because they too are casteised and politicised on a Dravidian style. The political parties should come out with a strong statement against violence against Dalits and also a mechanism to address it.

Attacking Dalits has become a part of Dravidian culture and it has to be stopped by them. Social justice has been reduced to reservation in jobs and education.

Social justice should encompass various other factors like self-respect, individual dignity and dignity of labour.

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