Madurai based filmmaker Amudhan feels that the system has consistently worked out strategies to make oppression acceptable
Amudhan Ramalingam Pushpam prefers to call caste politics in Tamil Nadu identity politics. The Madurai-based documentary filmmaker (he has been at it for 11 years) says he grew up in the heavily-wrought politics that still pervades his state, post the Dravidian movement. “While the status of the Dalits still remains the same, the 90s saw the assertion of Dalits in literature, theatre and cinema.” He feels that the retaliation of Dalits has become more violent and brutal especially since repeated incidents of caste violence in the late 90s. He says: “They use identity politics to bring themselves up — not to shed caste identities. And that is why the middle-caste and upper-caste combinations have seen communities getting into triangles.”
He plainly states: “It is difficult to give up privileges.” As OBCs have acquired power in his home state, Amudhan noticed that the dynamics of caste-based oppression has taken a new dimension — of OBCs becoming the oppressors and dalits remaining the oppressed. “It has become a case of bargaining for power.” The caste system, he feels, has become more sophisticated and oppressive.
The use of A.R. Rahman’s version of “Vande Mataram” is an interesting perspective. “During the second half of the Vajpayee government in the 90s with Pokhran and the Indo-Pak war, it was interesting to see Rahman use the National Anthem to beautify the situation of India.” He feels that the right-wing party captured nationalistic slogans like the “Vande Mataram”, the lotus and others and appropriated it to their own of Hindutva.
The sanitary system in India is deliberately designed to perpetrate the caste system. “The existence of manual scavenging is anti-human and disrespectful,” he says. He feels that it is a blatant system that is caste-explicit and is driven to appropriate humiliation and low self-worth in human beings.
“Once a friend wanted to educate a nomadic low-caste community, and they told him that they have no brains and hence cannot be educated.” It is this systematic strategy that has made oppression acceptable and their only reality. “The violent incidents of striptease foster this humiliation and maintain the structure of the caste-system.”
Amudhan also talks about the gross misrepresentation and caste discrimination that goes on in the media. He asks: “For how long are Indians going to exclude and neglect the majority of the country’s population?” He is very clear about the argument of merit that the upper castes voice in the case of reservation in educational institutions.
“It is not about losing quality, but about practising equality.” He maintains that they want to protect their power.
However, Amudhan is hopeful. “The constitution if captured by ordinary human beings can be used to create space for dialogue and discussion.”