Puducherry Assembly Elections 2016

Dalits enfeebled even in reserved Puducherry segments

At a campaign in Puducherry. Politicalparties are careful not to displease the dominant castes in the Union Territory. Photo: S.S. Kumar  

While the Scheduled Caste population is numerically insignificant to elect a representative of their choice even in reserved constituencies in Puducherry, their social and economic backwardness further limits their capacity to make a choice.

The spatial segregation of Dalits is a reality in these constituencies. Localities with names that end with “pet” are predominantly Dalit areas. As in any other rural areas in the Union Territory, they are not allowed into village temples.

“Though this kind of discrimination continues, no one raises his or her voice as many are economically backward and still dependent on the dominant caste landlords,” says a schoolteacher at Ossudu.

The candidates who win the elections in these constituencies are either rich or enjoy the clout of a political party. The total assets of the sitting MLAs in the four constituencies come to not less than a crore each. The election in reserved constituencies has become an act of tokenism, he says.

Economic dependence

Puducherry VCK leader Pozhilan says that while agriculture remains the main occupation and Dalits form a majority of the landless labourers, their economic dependence on the dominant caste landlords influences their voting.

C. Jerome Samraj, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, School of Management, Pondicherry University, says Dalits in Puducherry have become an insignificant political force. Political parties are more careful not to displease the dominant castes.

“Hence, no party really cares to address the Dalit issues even in their campaign. It is the caste factor that clearly decides who will gain support, who will contest and campaign where and whose vote will have more value. Given the numerical composition of voters, Dalits can hardly be a decisive factor here,” he says.

He underlines that these perennial issues of caste bring forth the debate on separate electorates, an idea backed by B.R. Ambedkar.

These concerns remain relevant even to this day, he added.

The state of the tribal population in Puducherry is worse. The tribespeople have not yet been recognised as Scheduled Tribes. The 2011 census data shows a blank against the ST population column for the Union Territory.

“The tribes here are only recognised as backward tribes, and we have been fighting to get the Scheduled Tribes status for the past three decades. Hence, they do not have any representation as no tribes are recognised as ST,” says K. Ramkumar, president of Puducherry Scheduled Tribes People’s Federation. He said that many of these tribes living in South India were recognised as STs except in Puducherry.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 5:06:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/puducherry2016/Dalits-enfeebled-even-in-reserved-Puducherry-segments/article14317474.ece

Next Story