Sunday, November 23, 2008
This is a fact finding report into the current caste conflict in Chennai. The purpose is to muster quick support to the Dalit students involved because they are just feeling helpless. If any of you (including organizations) wish to come forward, you may contact me. My contact is +91 9820216146.
- Anand Teltumbde
The Facts behind the Incidents of violence at Chennai
Dr. Ambedkar Law College.
The incident of violence on 12.11.2008 at Dr.Ambedkar Law College has shaken the conscience of every body. This incident surely needs to be condemned. The reason behind the submission of details herein is to bring out the facts behind the incidents of violence at a law college that we all believe is to produce future judges and socially conscious lawyer.
That clashes take place in the law college is not a new phenomena. We are shaken thoroughly to know the details of the brewing tension over the past four years that has broken out violently today. “Thevar Peravai” that functions with its headquarters at Chennai has been concentrating, specifically targeting the Thevar community students from the southern districts of Tamilnadu. It functions primarily in whipping up the passions and utilizes them for their vested parochial goals. With these students a casteist organization named ‘ Mukkulothor Student’s Federation” has already been formed. The main objective of this organization is to target and attack the Dalits. And they also raise queries like while all other 4 govt. law colleges are named as Govt.law college, why should the Chennai law college be named after Dr.Ambedkar and called Dr.Ambedkar law college. Since Dr.Ambedkar is a Dalit this name should be changed. This is their contention for their past 4 years. They do not use Ambedkar’s name in any of their advertisement and mention it only as ‘Chennai Law College’.
Such activities has raised unnecessary discomfiture amonsgtthe dalit students and raised a sense of hatred between the communities. In all these issues Bharathi Kannan, belonging to Mukkulathor Student Federation is the prime culprit. In the recent past,( in 6 months duration) Bharathi Kannan was waiting with five of his friends with swords in hand prowling to kill atleast tow Dalit boys. Police came to know of this and arrested him red handed with 3 long swords in their possession. But they were released without any complaints been filed against them. Though the college authorities were in the know of his activities it did not make any efforts to curb him. In the same manner he with his friends went and attacked the students of Dr.Ambedkar Law college residing in hostel at Millers road, Kilpauk. The Principal did not take any action. At least there are 17 cases including attempt to murder, pending on Bharathi Kannan.
In this circumstance on ‘30th October’ during the Thevar Jayanthi the passion were whipped up. The poster prepared by Mukkulothor Students Federation expressed the re assertion of its casteist hierarchy, with usages avoiding Dr. Ambedkar’s name. Also they teased the Dalit students on that day. The Dalits who questioned this were beaten up and with the law college students having exams from 3 rd of November, Mukkulothor Students Federation declared that any Dalit entering the college would be thrashed and killed. They were roaming around in the college complex with logs, iron rod, dagger and swords. Dalit boys could not enter the hall. Some Dalit boys came sneaking through and wrote the exams. Police or college authority did not take any action even though they were in the know of things.
Only on such a condition they came on 12.11.2008with logs, sticks etc for self protection. College authorities insisted that the students should avoid precipitating the issue. The Dalit students retorted stating that when the college authorities did not take any action when they were being prevented from attending exams, and they had come there for giving protection for Dalits and not attacking the Mukkulathor. Since some Dalit students have come for exams and Mukkulathors have identified and planned to attack them, they came for their defence. In such a situation Bharathikannan, Arumugam and Ayyadurai with daggers 2 ft. long, jumped in shouting that they shall kill at least 5 or so and moved towards the Dalit students. The Dalit students ran helter- shelter for their safety. When Bharathi Kannan and Arumugam ran and caught hold of Chithraiselvan, a Dalit student and tried to stab him down through the head. When he turned and saved his head his ears were torn off by the dagger. Other students joined in to save Chithrai Selvan and hit Bharathi kannan and Arumugam.
The sole responsibility for this callous approach rests entirely with the college authorities. For the last 4years when in the name of celebrating Thevar Jayanthi, efforts to assert caste hierarchy were being made, specifically failing to address Dr.Ambedkar Law college as such and naming it only as Chennai law college, threatening of the Dalit students, issuing threat to life for those Dalit students who opposed bringing caste conflict into the campus etc were brought to the notice of the college authorities no action was taken. Especially, for the last three days when it was brought to their notice of the magnitude and massive proportion of the brewing trouble, police or the college authorities made no action was taken to prevent the same.
In this situation Bharathi Kannan came in with daggers in hand to attack Dalit students. If the college authorities had acted in time this incident of violence could have been prevented.
1) Take appropriate action on the Principal for failing to take necessary action in time to prevent the brewing violence.
2) College authorities should initiate necessary action to prevent the casteist organizations that function from within the campus triggering violence.
3) Give due protection to all the students especially the Dalit students.
4) Take necessary action on those behind the incidents of violence, the organization, Thevar Peravai for fomenting casteist feelings.
5) Take appropriate action on the police authorities that failed to prevent the students who prowled inside the college campus for the past one week with weapons.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
How an interview with Gandhi was spiked
The Asian Age India | H.Y. Sharada Prasad
Can you imagine a newspaper choosing not to publish an interview with Mahatma Gandhi, although it was an exclusive one obtained by a member on its staff? Yet that is what the Times of India did in 1945.
The Times must have had many reasons for deciding to spike the story. First of all, the report did not have anything that was politically important, anything that would yield an eye-catching headline. What it contained was only a reiteration of Gandhi's known views on certain social practices. There was in fact no scarcity value about Gandhi stories. He gave too many interviews and spoke too often on everything under the sun, the old bore.
Bennett Coleman, the publishers of the Times of India, were in business to serve the cause of the Empire, and Sir Francis Low had not gone native like Arthur Moore of Calcutta's Statesman. Furthermore, the reporter who had secured the interview had done it off his own bat and not on behalf of the paper, nor with the consent of his editorial seniors. Anyway he was too callow and inexperienced to be chosen by the office for the assignment.
The name of the young reporter who had interviewed Mahatma Gandhi on his own initiative was K.R. Narayanan. There would have been no soothsayer either in the newspaper or in the country at that time who would have predicted that this slight and rather diffident-looking 24-year-old would one day be the elected President of the Indian republic.
Even Narayanan's being on the staff of the Times of India was a chance occurrence. Son of a barefoot country doctor from a socially discriminated-against caste in Kerala, Narayanan had an unquenchable hunger for knowledge and had gone to college with the help of scholarships he had won. After getting his degree he taught in a tutorial shop and worked on an economics journal in Delhi for a few months. On an impulse, he shot off a letter to J.R.D. Tata seeking a Tata fellowship to study in the London School of Economics. It clicked. He could not believe it when he was asked to be in Bombay within a week to catch the boat sailing for England.
When Narayanan presented himself in the Tatas' office just a day before the date of departure, a further surprise awaited him. The secretary of the Tata foundation had one look at the flimsy cotton clothes he wore and told him he would die of cold. She decided to fit him out in a couple of woollen suits, but they could evidently not be stitched in the half-a-day left. The next boat would leave six months hence, but the same Tata executive again acted as the good angel by persuading the Times of India to hire Narayanan as a cub reporter during the interregnum.
It is then that he interviewed Gandhi. He was given an appointment on a Monday, the Mahatma's day of silence in the week. It turned out to be an advantage. Narayanan wrote down his questions to which Gandhi scribbled his answers in his own hand. The interview remains one of Narayanan's cherished possessions.
Although not published by the Times of India at that time, the full text of the interview is to be found in Volume 86 of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. It is also included in a biography of the former President, written by Alaka Shankar and published by the Children's Book Trust. The interview reveals the dilemmas troubling a young man from a socially persecuted background.
Q: Do you still hold that the Harijan problem is only religious and social and that it has no great political significance?
A: It has political significance but indirectly.
Q: The Congress as an organisation has not taken up the Harijan work. Will it not be better if that work is taken up by the Congress and not by the Harijan Sevak Sangh?
A: It is wrong to say that the Congress has not taken it up.
Q: But it seems that leaders like Jawaharlal and Rashtrapati are not keenly aware of the Harijan question?
A: Those two are immersed in that work.
Q: The Harijan Sevak Sangh after years of work had not yet produced even a dozen leaders from among the Harijans themselves.
A: That charge is only partly true.
Q: All great men have a passion for simplification. You have simplified the nature of human conflict as between violence and non-violence, truth and untruth, right and wrong. But in life, is not the conflict between one right and another right or between one truth and another truth? How can non-violence deal with such a situation?
A: That is a matter of application.
Q: The Hindu-Muslim question where the conflict is between the rights of the Hindus and the rights of the Muslims, what technique of non-violence can be employed to solve the problem, especially when these rights seem to be irreconcilable?
A: The awful situation can only be dealt with properly through Satyagraha.
Your questions show that you have not studied it. If I am right, Pyarelal will give you a list of books. My advice to you is that you should seriously study the literature on the subject.
Q: How can a Harijan who goes abroad best serve his country and community from abroad?
A: He cannot serve the one without serving the other. Abroad you will say it is a domestic question which you are determined to solve for yourself.
The exchange makes one feel that Narayanan's questions are earnest and pointed and that the Mahatma's answers do not provide much illumination. That was the feeling that the younger elements of the national movement often had while working with Gandhi. The Mahatma did not give all the answers. But the young realised as they grew older that he helped them and encouraged them to find their own answers.
Narayanan certainly found an answer to his dilemmas by not allowing a conflict to develop between the sectional and the national. That is what made him such a fine ambassador and representative of the Indian civilisation. That is what has made him an Ajaatashatru in our public life.
I opened this column with an instance of "Believe it or not." I shall conclude with another. While studying in the London School of Economics, Narayanan shared a room with a Mauritian who rose to be President of his country, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo. I do not know whether there are many instances of Presidents of two different countries having been roommates at school or college. The economist, K.N. Raj, was a third roommate of theirs.
© 2005 The Asian Age
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
10 lakh vacancies set aside for SC/ST communities had not been filled up
These communities did not form even one per cent of the Class I to Class III employees
MADURAI: A reclamation board on the lines of the one for Denotified Tribes was needed for rehabilitation and liberation of Arunthathiyar castes, who lived as manual scavengers, gravediggers and cobblers, instead of having a compartmental reservation for them, said Puthiya Tamizhagam founder K. Krishnasamy.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, Dr. Krishnasamy called for proper implementation of the constitutionally provided existing quota of 18 per cent in the State and 22.5 per cent in Central Government for Scheduled Castes, as nearly 10 lakh vacancies set aside for (SC/ST) communities had not been filled up by the Central and State governments.
Stating that members of SC/ST communities did not form even one per cent of the Class I to Class III employees, he said that, on the other hand, at Class IV level, which included conservancy work as sweepers and scavengers, reservation was total and complete.
He also claimed that not even 6 per cent of the reserved quota was filled and only if 18 per cent was fully implemented by filling up vacancies every caste group among the SC/STs would benefit. This being the position there was no need for the State Government to go for compartmental reservation, which was a ploy to prevent the assertion of Dalits under a single banner when there was an utmost need to be united to face atrocities and crimes against untouchability.
Commenting that National Commission for Scheduled Castes was against compartmental reservation, he wanted the State Government to properly help the ‘safai karamcharis’ of the State.
COURTESY THE HINDU
The Peravai, an Ambedkarite social movement working for the upliftment of Arunthathiyar community, on Monday demanded six per cent out of 18 per cent reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in employment and education.
Speaking at the sixth regional conference here, its president R. Adiyaman, said that Arunthathiyars were at the lowest rung among the Scheduled Castes and hence, the State Government should provide a reservation of 6 per cent to them on the basis of their population.
Calling for the abolition of manual scavenging, the conference wanted the Government to provide alternative means of livelihood to those people engaged in the work.
It felt that the whole of the Dalit sub-caste, referred to in different names, should be clubbed and called Arunthathiyar.
A Government Order should be passed in this regard.
The community should be relieved of the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravida Development Corporation (THADCO) loans as in the case of farmers who had taken cooperative loans.
It said that a life-size statue of freedom fighter Ondi Veeran Pagadai should be installed in Tirunelveli and a memorial for him built in Nerkattum Sevvayal.
The Peravai wanted the authorities to relocate the statue of Madurai Veeran from near the eastern tower to inside the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple as it was near the place where visitors left their footwear.
Courtesy THE HINDU
Just like the other sections of Dalits, they are segregated and required to do odd jobs such as burying dead cattle and digging graves. Worse, Arunthathiyars, particularly women, have been compelled for centuries to do the humiliating job of removing human excreta and cleaning dry latrines, which still exist in large numbers despite a ban. Like many other laws relating to Dalits, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, remains on paper. Arunthathiyars often complain of ill-treatment by not only caste Hindus, but also other sections of Dalits. Arunthathiyars are thus, apparently, the worst victims of untouchability.
Even in areas where they are said to be better off (such as western Tamil Nadu), Arunthathiyars silently suffer untouchability in its myriad forms - for instance, denial of access to common water sources, public roads and temples, shops and schools. Seldom do they protest their humiliation. Even the Dalit assertion in the 1990s after the birth centenary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar apparently made little impact on their situation. Bezwada Wilson of Andhra Pradesh, who led a spirited campaign for a Central government ban on manual scavenging, said: "The pity is also that we safai karamcharis [manual scavengers] did not accept Babasaheb Ambedkar as our leader when he thundered that this occupation should not be glorified [as Gandhi did] but banned with immediate effect. Divided within ourselves, we did not use the momentum of the rest of the Dalit movements to further our cause."
Many Pallars in southern Tamil Nadu and Parayars in the northern districts have become aware of their rights and privileges, thanks to their access to education. However, Arunthathiyars remain backward in every respect. Only in recent times have there been attempts by Dalit activists to organise them.
The first major protest by Arunthathiyars was their boycott of elections to the Lok Sabha in 2002 at Kalapatti village in Coimbatore district in protest against the government's failure to concede their long-pending demands, including permission to enter the temple. Neither the caste Hindu elders nor the leaders of the political parties, including those of the Sangh Parivar who had often used Arunthathiyars as cannon fodder supports them in their struggle.
In fact, violence was let loose on the protesting Arunthathiyars by a 200-strong mob. More than 100 of their houses were ransacked and their belongings damaged. Many huts were burnt down. Nearly 15 persons were seriously injured in the attack. The assailants also destroyed university certificates of many Arunthathiyar youth. The police assistance came late, though a police station was less than 7 km away from the trouble spot (Frontline, July 20, 2004).
Courtesy The Hindu
I belong to the Arunthathiyar community, the most oppressed of the Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu, where Dalits comprise 20 percent of the population. Of the 76 communities listed as SCS, the Paraiyars, the Pallars and the Arunthathiyars are the three main groups.Arunthathiyars constitute about one-third of the state’s Dalit population and live in miserable conditions, working as manual scavengers, cobblers and agricultural labourers. Thousands are employed as conservancy workers in civic bodies. Though they speak Telugu at home, their children go to Tamil medium schools and follow Tamil customs. We are Tamils and that’s why I have named my organisation the Adhi Thamizhar Peravai. All Dalits are not equal. Arunthathiyars are looked down upon by other SCS. We bear the whole weight of caste oppression. It is no secret that the two-tumbler system is still prevalent in many villages. But I have news for you. There are villages where they keep three tumblers in tea shops — one for the caste Hindu, one for the Arunthathiyar, and one for the non-Arunthathiyar Dalit. The Pallars and Paraiyars think they are superior to us. They don’t inter-marry with us. The two Dalit parties in the state, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal (VC, formerly known as Dalit Panthers of India) and Puthiya Thamizhagam, represent the interests of the Paraiyars and the Pallars respectively. In the last Assembly elections, VC contested nine seats as part of the AIADMK front and all nine candidates belonged to the Paraiyar community.There are 44 reserved seats in the Assembly, but Arunthathiyars have never won more than five seats. At present, there are three Arunthathiyar MLAS — two in the DMK and one in the AIADMK. Paraiyars are the majority in the northern districts, Pallars in the southern districts, and Arunthathiyars in the western districts. No one except a Paraiyar can contest a reserved seat in the north. Pallars rule the roost in the south. But when it comes to areas where we are in majority, this rule does not apply. Parties field non- Arunthathiyars and win. The benefits of reservation for Dalits in Tamil Nadu have gone to Pallars and Paraiyars. There is 18 percent reservation for SCS. Our demand is that six percent of it should be earmarked for Arunthathiyars. We have represented our demands to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and he has promised to consider the matter. We have also asked him to take steps to abolish manual scavenging. The CM granted one of our demands and formed a welfare board for conservancy workers. Adhiyaman is founder president, Adhi Thamizhar Peravai, a Dalit social movement. As told to PC Vinoj Kumar
Sep 01 , 2007