Kerala’s recent move to appoint people from the Scheduled Castes and other socially-backward communities as priests in government-managed temples was a realisation of social reformer Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s dream, said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here on Monday.
Delivering the valedictory address at the second national convention of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSMM), he highlighted the contributions of Periyar towards eradication of caste discrimination, particularly the temple entry struggle in Vaikom, and said the late leader had a vision to make Dalits as temple priests.
Arguing that it was never the perspective of Communist parties that only Dalits should articulate their problems and fight for their justice, the Chief Minister stressed on the need for the class struggle and caste struggle to go hand-in-hand.
He said that although several leaders had come to power by projecting themselves as Dalit leaders, they failed to implement any systematic measures for the eradication of caste oppression as done by the Communist parties through land reforms.
Pointing out that the fight against caste oppression had become the dominant struggle today, in which the Left forces were at the forefront, Mr. Vijayan criticised the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP-led government at the Centre for what he called upholding of the varna system and strengthening caste identities. He said that while decades of Congress rule was a disappointment in the struggle against caste, the situation had worsened after the BJP came to power.
Alleging that cases of atrocities against Dalits were on the rise, he raised suspicion whether the release of National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016 was intentionally delayed as it might reveal this rising trend.
He blamed the BJP for dismantling various welfare measures for Dalits, including the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Sub Plan, and contradicted this with the Kerala government’s budgetary allocation for Dalits, which was more than the percentage of their population.