Secularism or triumph of social fascism in TN?

Chandrabhan Prasad

Individuals lie, politicians lie even more. But what if the whole nation lies? "The Jayalalitha-led Secular Front has halted the communal march of the NDA," is the Congress' war cry. The Left is singing the same song. And the NDA? "The results have come in on expected lines." That is how Vajpayeeji would react. Karunanidhi, too, has refrained from telling the truth, lest the social fascist forces remain hostile towards the DMK for all time to come. Obviously, the nation is lying about the elections in Tamil Nadu.

The politicians apart, neither have the psephologists or the political analysts answered the following: 1. Why did both the Dalit parties, Puthiya Tamizhagam led by Dr K Krishnasamy and the Dalit Panthers, led by R Tirumavalavan, join up with the communal DMK-led NDA? 2. Why did the two main Shudra communities, Thevars and Vanniars (a conglomerate of OBC castes) back the Secular Front. Who are these two communities and what is their relationship with the Dalits? 3. Why did Dalits need to form their own parties within Tamil society, which has witnessed a complete elimination of Brahmans from the power structure?

A report in The Times of India had stunned many a secular friend of mine. Rajesh Ramchandran had asked Dr Samy, considered to be a Tamil version of Kanshiram, as to what had made him align with the NDA. "We cannot fight all evils simultaneously. The RSS, compared to the Thevar dominated AIADMK, is a lesser evil." To prove his point, Dr Samy pointed out that "80 of the 141 AIADMK candidates were Thevars."

The Left/secular/liberal brigade is free to hurl abuse at Dr Samy. But we can't wish away the facts. In the past five years, southern TN has witnessed a civil war-like situation in which the Thevars and Dalits have been engaged in bloody conflicts. An estimated 300 people, mostly Dalits, have been murdered. The Thevars, a Shudra caste, in terms of their hold over rural assets and institutions, can only be compared to the Jats or the Yadavs of UP. The Thevars make up about 18 per cent of TN's population.

Consider the following scenario. If the Jats and Yadavs together constituted 18 per cent of UP's population, what would have happened to the Dalits? Today, the Jats (1.6%) and the Yadavs (8.7%), together, constitute a mere 10.3 per cent of UP's population and their behaviour with the Dalits is still abominable.

The Vanniars are concentrated in the west and north of Tamil Nadu. At the time of independence, they were slightly better off than the Dalits, in terms of landholdings. But due to the anti-Brahman movement, they are fattening at lightning speed and their medieval methods have made life for Dalits difficult. Remember, Veerappan is a Vanniar. The Vanniars also make up about 18 per cent of TN's population.

Now imagine if all the major land owning castes in UP, ie Rajput (7.2), Bhumihar (0.4), Tyagi (0.1), Jat (1.6), Yadav (8.7), Kurmi (3.5), Lodh (2.2) Gujjar (0.7), decided to back a single political front. What would happen to the Dalits who, in their day-to-day lives, are confronted with these castes? Can any other front in UP match this combine in any kind of electoral battle?

What has happened in TN's Assembly elections is simply this? After the Brahmans' total elimination from TN's political power structure in 1967, the upper caste Shudras monopolised the wealth and institutions of Tamil society. The Dalits had also celebrated the Brahmans' demise from the power structure. But Tamil Nadu Dalits have suddenly realised that, in the rural areas, of every 100 of them, 78 are landless agricultural labourers, as against 47 in UP. Thus, after capturing power, each upper shudra caste is claiming a Kshatriya-like status and emulating the Kshatriyas' medieval forms of oppression. The Thevars and Vanniars have been the backbone of the anti-Brahman movement, and have been shifting loyalties from the DMK to the AIADMK. Mandal gave them a new message, and they are now aspiring to a direct hold over the power structure. Through Sashikala Natrajan, the Thevars have control over Jayalalitha. The Vanniars have their PMK, which was a part of the Secular Front.

Karunanidhi, himself a lower caste Shudra, realised the upper caste Shudras were charting their own path and made a desperate attempt to install a new coalition of TN's social proletariat. But, what he miscalculated, was that the people who don't control rural assets, cannot determine poll results. I was not stunned by a story filed by R Elangovan in the Chennai edition of The Hindu: Dalit card cost DMK OBC vote bank.

The new Dalits must understand changing social realities: while the Left hand of the nation is celebrating the triumph of secularism in TN, the Right is silent. But the Dalits are threatened by the triumph of social fascism.

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Referred by: Sashi Kanth
Published on: May 22, 2001
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