Dharmapuri violence not an isolated incident but planned attack: report

The November 7 attack on Dalit villages in Dharmapuri district was not an isolated incident but a planned attack against Dalits by intermediate castes in that region, observed a forum of Dalit activists, writers and intellectuals.

The Intellectual Circle for Dalit Actions (ICDA, Tamil Nadu - Puducherry) said the latest attack on Dalits required political attention because many observers and intellectuals attributed the attack to an allegedly inflammatory speech by Kaduvetti J. Guru of Pattali Makkal Katchi, who had said openly at a meeting in Mamallapuram in April 2012 that Vanniyars should prevent inter-caste marriages involving their girls. This speech gave the accused the stimulus to carry out such an attack, the ICDA said in a report.

In the State’s western region, the Kongu Vellala Gounder Peravai and other backward and intermediate caste organisations had spoken out against inter-caste marriages.

Their action was not only illegal but also against the Constitutional ideal of equality. This was never condemned either by the State Government or major political parties.  

In a State with a century-old history of anti-caste movements, the backward and intermediate castes, often projected as victims of Brahminism, were the ones that inflicted violence against Dalits and the Dharmapuri incident is yet another example.

Moreover, these caste-based political movements, which function under the rubric of social justice, were the ones that continuously called for the annulment of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the intellectuals said. The caste-majoritarian politics promoted by the Dravidian parties remained a protective shield for such organisations, the ICDA said.

The political bonhomie between Dalits and Vanniyars after a political alliance between PMK and VCK began in 2003 was seen then as a big change.

For, the castes were pitted against each other for long. Both the parties claimed that their coming together would herald a change in social relationships.

However, it was under the banner of Tamil nationalism and it was not a platform for annihilation of caste.

The Dharmapuri violence, according to the ICDA, showcases the failure of Dravidianism and Tamil nationalism.

The political discourse had failed to internalise changes in the caste hierarchy in which the intermediate castes had gained an upper hand which, in turn, saw a greater subjugation and oppression of Dalits, the ICDA said in its report.

The ICDA includes C. Lakshmanan of Madras Institute of Development Studies; Tamil writer Stalin Rajangam; J. Balasubramanian and A. Jegannathan of Madurai Kamaraj University and Anbu Selvam, writer from Puducherry.