Dalit leaders in Tamil Nadu strongly feel that the community is being targeted by intermediate castes, who are unable to digest their upward economic mobility.

In the aftermath of the Dharmapuri violence, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi demanded to know from Periyar supporters, Marxists, Tamil nationalists and democratic forces what they were going to do about this dangerous trend fuelled by inflammatory speeches harping on caste pride.

Speaking to The Hindu here, VCK president and MP Thol. Thirumavalavan likened the Dharmapuri incidents to those at Kodiyankulam in the mid-1990s, when the upward economic mobility of Dalits was seen as the reason behind the violence against them. If the Dharmapuri case was due to the wrath of an intermediate caste, at Kodiyankulam it was in the form of a State-sponsored violence.

The economic and educational development and political assertion of Dalits under their own banners were factors that led to the intermediate castes using caste pride as a weapon to defend their dominant status.

K. Krishnasamy, MLA and founder-president, Puthiya Tamilagam, said the violence against Dalits was a clear example of feudal mindset, where the dominant castes were unable to digest the changes in the socio-economic order. The PT leader pointed out a different sociological aspect. “The small changes that have happened among Dalits due to globalisation, with its caste-neutral jobs, have provided economic liberation to an extent and this has brought about many changes in the psychological attitude of Dalits who have started to question their subjugation, assert themselves and fight back.” He demanded more industries in southern Tamil Nadu to boost economic development.

Mr. Thirumavalavan said since the 1957 Mudukulathur violence, Dalits were massacred at Keezhavenmani, Unjanai, Villupuram, Bodi and Melavalavu. When violent caste atrocities took place at Kodiyankulam, Gundupatti, Bodi, Thevaram and Meenakshipuram, most of the political parties, democratic forces and human rights organisations remained silent. That was why the Dharmapuri violence took place.

The violence in Dharmapuri took place for over six hours and the government machinery made no efforts to contain it. There were looting and arson in a free-for-all situation. Not only household items, even textbooks and certificates were burnt. The attack was meticulously planned, and the government must be held responsible, he said.

Terming Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S. Ramadoss’s charge that Dalit boys were luring intermediate caste girls to marriage and deserting them, he said it was an absurd allegation made only to gain political mileage.