Tamil Nationalism is an alternative to the Caste-Based Identity-Politics
Looking for an alternative way of thinking is not a luxury of the elite. But it is the felt-need of people who have most suffered the centuries old discrimination and humiliation. We Indians have a thousand and one reasons to feel proud of Indian citizenship before the international community. At the same time, we have ample reasons to feel ashamed, the prime and foremost reason being the caste factor. Worldwide people have their surname or family name, which is meant for showing their family history. Ironically in India surname depicts caste identity of the particular individual. But this practice seems to have disappeared in naming the streets in Tamilnadu, but the existence of caste feeling and caste based practices are still deep-rooted in every part of Tamilnadu.
In the name of caste, honour-killing is day by day in the increase all over Tamilnadu. Both political parties and peoples’ movements never react to this matter. Especially political parties do not try to understand the root cause of the problem. Instead, they are accelerating the issue on majoritarian principle. For example, if a so-called upper caste man kills a woman of an alleged lower caste, the political party will indirectly support the man, who has political power, money and living in his places with a majority of his group. But the political parties openly poclaim that Tamilnadu never supports caste system. In reality all political parties directly and indirectly support caste system and want the caste system to continue. For selecting their candidates in MLA and MP election, their first and foremost criteria for their selection is caste next to their economic status.
Caste and economic status are directly related, as the so-called upper caste person has land, property and political power from their ancestral period. Automatically he gets opportunity in his political party and by spending plenty of money in the election achieves his goal. That is why no political party ever wishes caste system to vanish and this is the prime reason for caste-based atrocities.
In India Uttar Pradesh ranks first in honour killings and Tamilnadu ranks second in this. At the same time, a recent survey from Scroll.in told that marriages in the same community/caste take place more in Tamilnadu. How can we understand this confusing situation? That means, tolerance on inter-caste marriage is decreasing, since political parties are threatening inter-caste marriages. Tamilnadu is known for self-respect movement and that movement once encouraged inter-caste marriages to abolish caste system in this soil. Dr. Ambedkar also insisted on this inter-caste marriage as one of the ways to eradicate caste system. It is unfortunate honour-killings are increasing in Tamilnadu. Really it is very shameful to the entire Tamil society.
On the other hand, political parties are encouraging caste based sangha and their caste based activities like honour killings to harvest majority upper caste votes to their parties. Irrespective of any parties, they want to have alliance with small caste-based Sanga, and this sangha in due course of time is becoming notable political party. This is what has happened during last last 30 years in Tamilnadu.
Of late political parties selfishly deepened caste practicing system in Tamilnadu. They are not at all ready to provide or decentralise political representation for Scheduled caste. They are continuously neglected in political representation. No SC/ST is getting powerful portfolio in ministry. During congress — Kamaraj — period, late Mr. Kakkan got powerful ministries. After him it has become like a dream. For namesake ministries are allotted to SCs like Adi Dravida welfare or social welfare. What does a government really want by this to convey to the SCs? As you are from scheduled caste you do not have the right to head a powerful ministry or you are not capable. Knowingly or unknowingly the government itself is practicing caste disparity on its own citizens. Is it permissible according to Indian constitution?
Last 50 years the political parties deepened the caste system by supporting so-called upper castes by giving them more seats in both MP and MLA elections, placing them in high authority positions in governance. Socially, they support so-called upper castes in caste atrocity cases. Recently, Melavalavu convicted persons were releasd from Jail on C.N.Annadurai’s birthday celebration and they are freely roaming in their villages, showing ‘we are proud of caste Hindus‘ against the high court order.
Economically, SC students are still struggling to get their scholarships from concerned departments, particularly SC welfare hostels are not maintained properly, even after many activists keep on bringing it to notice. We can’t list out the problems of reservation in government jobs. Many Dalit leaders demanded white paper on this issue, but government never nods its head.
Are there ways and means to overcome caste based oppression by the government and people? Tamil Nationalism has a clear-cut idea and principle to eradicate caste system; particularly they attend to it by creating a dialogue among students in the community about the role of the youngsters and who really exploits people in the name of caste oppression. And youngsters already started to speak and write in social media forum about the need to eradicate caste system from this soil and they very correctly and sharply identified how major political parties spoiling their own community youngsters in the name of caste consolidation. If younger generation realizes the truth, there won’t be any chances for caste-based violence. This will result in rethinking of caste based politics in the old generation politician, and they may be compelled to rethink their past mistakes. Regular dialogues, conferences, meetings should be conducted by the intellectuals, activists and Tamil Desiya political leaders.
Particularly, art media like cinema, YouTube channels should be properly used for propaganda. The ultimate sufferers in caste system are women, and participation of women is to be ensured in this process. If a woman gets awareness on the dynamics of caste-system in family, society and in governance, she would definitely reache out to more people and will create a strong awareness among them. Hope of this society is always women and youngsters and they must be educated politically. Thus Social change will take place quickly. Already Tamil Nationalism brings more women in Politics under the umbrella of Tamil identity. I strongly believe it will balance the society with equality and harmony.
At the same time I am also aware that there are critics to this way of thinking with vested interests and I am not so naïve to assert that it is the perfect solution. Given the present situation of the Indian political cenario and knowing the 500 years of foreign rule in the history of Tamil society, this is my alternative way of thinking. There is no ideal solution operative anywhere in the globe. We see now only in fragments, but the emerging vision of the perfect circle out of the faltering steps is not far behind.
About the Author:
Ms. Natchiyal Suganthi, Agriculture graduate and MBA. Published two poetry books and one short story collection. 17 years of experience in Visual print and online media; Orator, Active in Tamil Nationalism politics.