The recent political stunt by Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss, calling for consolidation of intermediate castes against Dalits, is condemnable (“A party in retreat,” Dec. 6). To win the vote bank of the community on which he built his political career, he has taken the help of a tool that has the potential to damage peace and harmony. Tamil Nadu has been witnessing frequent caste clashes in recent times. The government should deal strictly with political leaders adding fuel to the fire. For his part, Dr. Ramadoss should realise that political interests are secondary to the larger interests.
The lack of a determined and powerful leadership has been the major cause of the survival of the caste system over the years. No one wants to discard the caste identity. Caste is a culture and we teach our children about it. While mythological and legendary stories helped perpetrate the caste system in the past, reservation and community certificate help children identify with caste today.
Vanniyars, a predominant caste in Tamil Nadu, have enjoyed the fruits of reservation in adequate measure at the expense of the Other Backward Classes. Irrespective of their political affiliations, they are well represented in the legislature. Every party has its own chunk of elected representatives from this caste on account of its predominant strength, while Dalits are mostly restricted to the reserved seats guaranteed by the Constitution.
Dr. Ramadoss’s manoeuvre is doomed to fail as other castes will be wary of biting the bait laid by him. As early as 1952, S.S. Ramasamy Padayachi and Manickavel Naicker aroused similar sentiments and ultimately merged with the Indian National Congress for political spoils.