Dalit consolidation in Tamil Nadu remains a difficult task despite their significant population strength—21 per cent as per the 2011 census—because the major political parties are still not well disposed towards the Dalit parties, Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol. Thirumavalavan said.
In an interview to B. Kolappan in Chennai on Tuesday, he responded to critical issues affecting the Dalits, including the social engineering experiment of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh. Here are the excerpts:
Why do you think the major political parties that lead alliances refuse to part with more seats for Dalit parties?
First, they fear that emergence of Dalit parties will not augur well for their future. Secondly, they feel that a pro-Dalit stand will alienate caste-Hindus, who form the social base for these Dravidian parties and other caste outfits masquerading as political parties.
Dalit political parties are targeted even at the grass root level and other political parties do not even allow them to hoist their party flags in a public place.
Our efforts to hoist flags are resisted or in many cases dealt with violent means. We lost three cadres in attacks when they hoisted our party flags. We are prevented from entering the mainstream at the very primary level.
What is the way out then?
Ensuring social security for Dalits is the first step towards consolidating the community for political empowerment. More seats allocated to us in any alliance will attract Dalits towards political parties espousing their cause.
But we are not able to move towards mainstream politics because of the attitude of the major political parties.
Why are you unable to replicate the social engineering successfully implemented by Kanshi Ram and Mayawati in U.P., given that Dalits are the single largest community in Tamil Nadu?
Population alone is not enough for social engineering experiments. Both Kanshi Ram and Mayawati contested alone in the elections, aimed at consolidating the Dalit vote bank in U.P. They aligned with the BJP only later. The substantial presence of Brahmins in the State and their mission to settle scores with Mulayam Singh, who was pursuing anti-Brahmin politics, brought the Brahmins and Dalits together.
In Tamil Nadu, the Brahmins are not in adequate numbers to replicate the U.P. formula.
Moreover, we do not have a proper Dalit leadership. VCK and Puthiya Tamizhagam became aggressive only in the last fifteen years and it will take some more time to make their presence felt. Unlike in U.P., the process of consolidation began very late in Tamil Nadu.
Do the sub-divisions among Dalits prevent their mobilisation in the State?
Such divisions are inevitable in a society like ours. People in the beginning identify themselves with such sects and establish themselves as a powerful force before coming under one roof.