Fame of shame for Meenakshipuram
By Swati Das
MEENAKSHIPURAM (Tamil Nadu): Karupaiah, R Rasappa Thevar and Ramarajan gather at the Murugan temple just outside the village for a chat. It's siesta time and they take a short break from work.
It was the same village, in Bodinayakanur village, that saw bloody caste riots between the Thevars and the Dalits in 1989. "Oh yes, we know how famous our village is. It's name and fame has reached even Delhi. What a shame!, " says Rasappa.
Today, Rasappa, a Thevar, sits with his friends Karupaiah, a Dalit, and Ramarajan, a Gowda. They chat and eat together.
They prefer to forget what happened that year when Dalit leader John Pandian, during a speech at the village square, made a remark sparking off riots in the nearby Thevaram (a Thevar-dominated town) that claimed 11 lives.
"We can't even utter those words. We live here in peace but someone else from somewhere come here and create create problems," Karupaiah said.
"It's not that we don't fight. We fight almost every other day. But the next day, we forget our differences and live together. It's only the politicians who create problems for us. Ours is a very poor village. We can't afford to fight with each other," pitched in Ramarajan.
Karupaiah says except for Iyers (Brahmins), people from all castes are living in the village. "Today, that man (John Pandian) would not be allowed to enter our village," he said.
Pandian had apparently made a remark about the Thevar women. He today heads a party called Tamizh Makkal Kazhagam (TMK), which has an alliance with the AIADMK, and is contesting from Egmore constituency, Chennai, on the 'two leaves' symbol.
AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha was the Bodinayakanur MLA when the riots broke out, while DMK Chief M Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister. After the violence, Jayalalitha is believed to have had visited the area, especially Thevaram. The violence continued after she left the place, it is learnt.
It's 12 years since. The segregation of castes -- Thevars for the AIADMK and Dalits for the DMK -- seems to weigh down the place. Many fear tension. A meeting of the local politicians was held at Thevaram that warned parties that the people would not support any party that would create tension.
The people here are no more the same. And, interestingly, none of the parties have dared to bring out the caste issues in their campaigns.