Tamil Nadu

Arunthathiyars feel left out by parties

The issue of “adequate political representation” of Arunthathiyars, a Scheduled Caste, has again come to the fore with the community getting a negligible number of party ticket in the Lok Sabha election.

Barring the AIADMK and the AMMK, which have nominated one candidate each in The Nilgiris, no major party has fielded anyone from the community. K. Kathirkamu of the AMMK, a member of the community, is contesting again in the Assembly byelection from Periyakulam after getting disqualified under the anti-defection law in September 2017.

Two representatives of the community — Valasai E. Ravichandran of the Arunthathi Makkal Katchi and A. Nagarasaan of the Adi Tamizhaar Munnetra Kazhagam — feel aggrieved over basic issues.

They claim that their community’s “real strength” is over 50 lakh. But when an official committee of the State government carried out the categorisation of the communities 10 years ago, the community’s numerical strength was shown as lesser than what prevailed earlier.

Delimitation blow

Mr. Nagarasaan, whose outfit is supporting the AMMK, says: “In the Assembly, we must be having at least 15 MLAs. But we lost heavily in the delimitation in 2008. In the western belt, where members of the community live in large numbers, there are only eight Assembly constituencies reserved for the SCs. Quoting this aspect, major parties plead helplessness in giving the ticket to us.”

Conceding that his party did not have any MLA from the community, V.P. Duraisamy, deputy general secretary of the DMK and former Deputy Speaker, recalls that it was while his party was in power that the reservation was provided to the community. “It was a historic decision,” he says.

Although former Union Minister A. Raja is not an Arunthathiyar, his services to the people of The Nilgiris and the party are “laudable,” says Mr. Duraisamy, who lost in Rasipuram in the 2016 Assembly elections. Mr. Raja, who was elected in 2009 and defeated five years later, has been in touch with the voters, he says.

His point was in response to observations of the DMK’s critics who question the move to field Mr. Raja again from The Nilgiris although he hails from Perambalur.

Vanni Arasu, deputy general secretary of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, admits that a lot needs to be done to improve the standard of living of the community. Whenever possible, his party accommodated representatives of the Arunthathiyars in the distribution of seats at the time of elections, even though its emphasis had been on highlighting the plight of Scheduled Castes in general.

There were other reasons why the community had not progressed to the extent of many other castes under the SC category.

Not vociferous

M. Bharathan, State organiser of the Ambedkar Kalvi Centenary Movement and who has been a member of the State committee of the Untouchability Eradication Front, an organ of the CPI (M), complains that not many leaders who claim to be fighting for the cause of the Arunthathiyars highlight the need for the elimination of manual scavenging, besides proper implementation of the separate reservation.

Pointing out that although he belongs to Devendrakula Vellalar, he said he had been highlighting issues and problems of the Arunthathiyars. “Sections of my caste do not relish what I have been doing,” he says.

Mr. Ravichandran, who supports the AIADMK, wants a committee constituted to monitor the implementation of the separate reservation. Pattas, official documents endorsing occupation of land, should be issued to conservancy workers in urban areas for the houses in which they had been living. Statues should be installed in Chennai for L.C. Gurusami and H.M. Jaganathan, who had impressed upon the community the need for formal education about 90 years ago, he adds.

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Printable version | Apr 28, 2021 9:32:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/arunthathiyars-feel-left-out-by-parties/article26696489.ece

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