Ilavarsan's Death And The Ugly Face Of Tamilnadu's Vanniyar Politics
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
09 July, 2013
The death of E.Ilavarsan in Tamilnadu might be a single column report in our newspapers but it has reflected the mindset prevailing in India and deep rooted caste prejudices against the Dalits in our society. It has also proved that the Dravidian politics has not been able to overcome its own prejudices against Dalits and they large represent the politics of powerful politicized OBCs who at the social level have been at the loggerheads with Dalits. It is not strange therefore that none of the mainstream Dravidian parties have spoken unambiguously on the issue though the political parties particularly representing Dalits, such as Puthia Tamilgam and Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi have sought action against PMK, yet so far no visible action is seen on the ground by the Tamilnadu government. The Madras High Court is now observing this matter as the family of Ilavarsan has asked for a second autopsy as they refuse to believe that it is a case of suicide.
It is deeply regrettable that the party which is responsible for this act and has outrageously spoken against Dalits by supporting the anti-Dalit violence among the Vanniyar community in Dharmapuri district of Tamilnadu is roaming freely and propagating its hate philosophy. In fact, PMK had warned against the love marriages as well as abrogation of Prevention of Atrocities Act. The Vanniyar community members have been instigated by PMK and its leaders who had been organizing various meeting against the marriage of Divya, their community girl with Ilavarsan, a Dalit boy from Dharmapuri. It saw violence by the Vanniyar community against Dalits after the marriage. Afterwards, Divya’s father committed suicide under intense social pressure resulting in more pressure of breaking of marriage. The social pressure was so high that Divya was compelled to break the marriage unilaterally in the High-Court without informing Ilavarasan. She told Madras High Court that she would not like to live with Ilavarasan anymore. It is reported that heartbroken Ilaverasan committed suicide after that.
PMK has been part of government both at Centre and in the state and it is reprehensible that they could be so irresponsible in addressing this issue. Their stand replicates the values of Khap Panchayats in Haryana who have been violating the laws of the land but without any action from the government of Haryana merely because of political reasons. Contrary to this action has been taken against Dalits who have been speaking against violence. This shows the connivance of the state with powerful communities. It is true that these issues are socio-cultural in nature and need social response. Unfortunately, politicians have proved to be too petty in such cases and we still feel a big vacuum after Periyar’s death in Tamilnadu who could have spoken against such violence.
Today, some of the parties might condemn the incident but just as a passing reference while many pretend that it is a ‘social issue’. One does not understand what is the meaning of ‘social issue’? Is Indian constitution not applicable on ‘social issues’? If that is true then we have accepted that it is the Manusmriti which rules India and not the constitution of India and all those parties who speak against brahamanical order have in fact strengthened them to strengthen their own political position and anti Brahmanism remained a mere rhetoric for them to control the levers of powers. Unfortunately this tendency and pattern is absolutely contrary to the thoughts and actions of Periyar who not only raised a banner of against the system but also provided alternatives through self-respect marriages but today it look as if these marriages are more political and less social. Therefore, a few such marriages will not change the situation in Tamilnadu.
It death of Divya’s father actually reveal the reality of village life of Tamilnadu where religiousity and caste supremacy remain intact. It means that Periyar’s movement did reach and ignite some of the OBC communities but not all. And more over, these communities revolved around him not in their social process but purely for political empowerment. Dr Ambedkar had always mentioned that in the absence of social equality our political power would be nothing but a big humbug and would help the lowest of the law. In a society where caste prejudices are highly prevalent and where individual’s choices are secondary to community, the role of politicians and local goondas promoted by them cannot be absolved. The fact is that Divya’s father committed suicide because of the very thought of facing possible humiliation of having married his daughter to a lower caste boy as PMK had already been organizing people on those lines. He could not accept his daughter’s choice and the daughter pursued her own choice and was happily living with Ilavarsan because individual’s choice never matters on ‘social’ issues and give a big ‘agenda’ to political parties to actually ‘celebrate’ without working too much for people. And this is one of the reasons where parents face social pressure, mostly the local politicians, relatives who make politics of everything and use it for their benefits. Definitely, her father committed suicide to force his daughter to break the marriage which she refused. This means that Divya did not agree to family blackmail of not marrying to Ilavarasan as he was her love. But after his suicide, the pressure came on the daughter. Once you live with your family where your marriage or action is considered as the reason of father’s death then one can understand what decision would a girl or a boy take. They are emotionally blackmailed and if that too fails then they are ‘managed’, whether through calling off the marriage or getting ‘rid’ of the ‘obstacles. There is no other option for them except than surrendering to ‘community’ wishes. And therefore Divya’s affidavit in the highcourt cannot be taken on face value as it is six months pressure on her which resulted in her statement. The pressure of isolation, losing everything and most importantly pressure of losing her own life, a sense of guilt for being ‘responsible’ for her father’s death. How could a girl alone face such pressure from a brutal and barbaric society? After having lost her father, it was possible she might have felt the intense pressure on her mother and she would not like to lose her mother. And this resulted in another death. Whether the death is suicidal or a murder, it needs to be thoroughly investigated but the cause of Ilavarsan’s death for sure is the caste system and the political parties using this for their own purposes. You will have to deep into the reasons of death and you will find the dirty games of political parties and that is why it is important for the government to bring out a law against honored killing which had been shaming humanity.
It is time for government of India to bring out caste violence act exactly on the ground of communal violence bill so that parties who thrive on caste hatred cannot do so. It is shameful that the Party like PMK have been part of power in Delhi as well as in Tamilnadu and the way the party leaders have behaved shows clearly that they violated the constitution of India and spread hatred. In fact, PMK leaders must book for the death of Ilavarsan and election commission must warn them of future action if they don’t mend their ways. As Madras High Court is hearing this petition, they must order free and fair investigation into the matter so that politicians who use caste hatred as a tool to mobilize their communities could be taken to task.
Ilavarsan’s death and our conspicuous silence also reflect the hypocrisy of our society, it's activists who will raise all the issues and come out with candle light marches. Why has this issue not outraged us and pricked our conscious? India shame continue unabated as a boy is killed for loving a girl from Dalit community and the state of India is unable to protect them and those responsible for his death are ‘well connected’ leaders who have had held senior positions in the government and are wandering free and threatening people. Is India a society which hate love and which still live in their own myopic social order which violate all principles of equality and social justice? We are signatory to various international covenants and yet we allow such incidents to happen and don’t even raise a slogan shows how our world is much narrow and pathetically racist.
The painful thing is that all this is happening in the state of Periyar who was much ahead of his time, who promoted women’s rights and talked against caste system. Unfortunately, Periyar’s followers hailing from powerful backward communities became much worse than Brahmins and looked down upon all the Dalits. That is one reason why despite Dravidian government in Tamilnadu, violence against Dalits is very high in the state. It makes a mockery of our constitution that at many places Dalit Sarpanches cannot hoist the national flags on Independence Day or republic day. The incidents in Tamilnadu have bigger message for us all that mere negative agenda will not work and without ensuring participation of wider section of people in governance and political structure we cannot ensure social justice. It means that mere anti Brahmanism will not make any one as pro Dalit or pro social justice. The idea of social justice is to create a level playing field for all and not simply to destroy hegemony of a community and create another one, a more brutal one, which happened in Tamilnadu. The creation of monopolies is the very idea of brahmanical structure and need to be dismantled at all level and only then we will have an equitable society.
Right and wrongs in India have become victim of caste identities. We keep quiet and speak only when it suits us. That is the most disgusting part of the new generations of Indians who have kept quiet on the issue which is of greatest importance in India as it exposes our political parties as well as social system. It is easier to speak against ‘state’ violence and oppression in India but very difficult to speak against social oppression and varnashram dharma. That is why we will finds activists, lawyers, journalists speaking on ‘state’ ‘oppression’ but remain out of bound on these issues as they exposes the very nature. Issue of love and caste are ‘private’ and hence our ‘activists’ don’t speak on them and political parties just use it if that suits their interest. While we can have complained against PMK, what is shocking that none of the parties speak on the issue openly for the fear of losing Vanniyar votes?
Vanniyars will never gain anything if they have parties like PMK which is not a community party but a family enterprise like any other party in India. Parties like DMK and others which swear in the name of Periyar and social justice must not ally with PMK and the ruling government must file cases against them. The state of India must effectively and strictly implement its laws and all those who marry as per their choice must be encouraged and protected. India cannot afford to lose its young who dare to take step against an oppressive system and despite threats to life still move ahead and love.
Ilavarsan was killed by Indian caste order and the point is that such killings have not raised any outrage is another reminder that despite all the self-proclaimed progress India remain notoriously a caste society with deeply injected prejudices. Tragedy is that we have seen lot of candle light marches for everyone but so far have not seen any one coming forward to raise a candle light for the martyrdom of Ilavarasan. Yes, Ilavarasan is a martyr for the cause of love who was killed by our notorious caste minds and Indian state could not protect him. Let us light a candle for his courage and love despite known hatred of Vanniyars against him and his community. The fact is that the Vanniyars have been duped by the parties in ‘false’ ‘community pride’ which make them above the Dalits. Why should the Dalit feel that they are below them? The very thought of such graded inequality as Baba Saheb had put, the battle of Dalit Bahujan much more difficult. Unfortunately, we are not ready to address these issues where we will be required to work with people. A constructive work is difficult as it will need energy, commitment and also lots of moderation skills to bring communities together and making them part of the process. All human beings are equal declared the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and our constitution provided equal opportunities to all but how shamelessly we are following the same path of considering people less equal. It is more disturbing that after so many years of ‘political empowerment’ if the Dravidian politics remain victim of caste identities and controlling and maintaining status quo then you cannot blame ‘others’ for the deeds of these parties. Caste identities will only divide Dalit Bahujan and the only way is a complete cultural change which Baba Saheb Ambedkar felt was important for India otherwise ‘strengthening’ caste identities will only help those who have maintained status quo and developed these contradictions of our life.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter : freetohumanity skype : vbrawat Facebook : Vidya Bhushan Rawat firstname.lastname@example.org
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