Demands dilution of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

Marking the formal emergence of a socio-political movement against Dalit assertion in Tamil Nadu, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder S. Ramadoss on Sunday brought together groups belonging to intermediate castes to hit out at sections of the Scheduled Castes and demand dilution of the law aimed at curbing anti-Dalit atrocities.

Repeatedly referring to the meeting held here as one of non-Dalit organisations, Dr. Ramadoss, whose support base is drawn from the Vanniyars, identified officially as a Most Backward Class, demanded amendments to prevent the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and accused Dalit youth of fomenting social tension by filing false complaints under the law and ensnaring girls from other castes with bogus professions of love.

“They wear jeans, T-shirts and fancy sunglasses to lure girls from other communities,” he told reporters. A resolution adopted at the meeting cited statistics of broken marriages to claim that inter-caste marriages ended in failure because they were unions born out of caste design and not love.

In the company of groups representing various intermediate castes and some Muslim organisations too, the PMK leader said all of them would hold demonstrations across the State on January 4 to press the demand for amending the Act to prevent its misuse against non-Dalits.

The emergence of a caste bloc against Dalits may not augur well for inter-caste relations in Tamil Nadu, especially in the aftermath of the Dharmapuri violence of early November.

Dalits, mediapersons and political parties including the DMK have pointed fingers at the PMK for allegedly spearheading the attack in which hundreds of homes were burnt down in Dalit habitations.

Dalit leaders and intellectuals have seen in the violence signs that it was the economic prosperity of the Dalits that was the real target of such attacks. Similar, but smaller incidents took place in Cuddalore district recently.

However, the caste revivalism represented by this bloc is set to face political resistance too. Left, Dalit and other parties plan to come together to counter the trend, assert the rights of SCs and seek measures to strengthen the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

“Intermediate castes coming together against inter-caste marriage and on other social issues is unacceptable,” said CPI (M) State Secretary G. Ramakrishnan.