The brutal murder of the 23 year old Ashok, an office bearer of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and an active cadre of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu sent shock waves among the political and social activists. The killing was allegedly carried out by the Maravar community in the region for protesting against their caste hegemony in the small village of Karaiyiruppu. Six persons belonging to the maravar community have been arrested in the case.
Unfortunately, most of the major political parties are yet to even register their protest against the murder of a youth who had fought against untouchability issues. Many of the mainstream media too reported the murder without insisting the root cause which led to the cruel murder of the youth.
Reactions of Political Parties
The local leadership of the CPI(M) and DYFI arrived on the spot immediately and led the agitation after the murder came to light. The following morning saw the arrival of CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan and he led the protest of the family and party cadres demanding immediate action against the killing and adequate compensation to the family.
The two major Dravidian parties- the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), are yet to condemn the murder. The Dravidian parties claim themselves of being the saviours of the socially oppressed community for years, however, the murder of the 23 year old dalit youth and the tears of the 60 year old mother are yet to reach the ears of the leadership of the two parties.
The silence of AIADMK despite the ruling party, could possibly be to avoid embarrassment, but the DMK’s striking silence raises many questions. These parties seem to have moved away from their basic ideology of ensuring social justice and eliminating caste oppression.
BJP and Communalism
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is known for its silence on sensitive issues related to untouchability as the party’s policy itself is based on the Manusmriti. The party is also known for communalising and politicising the attacks and murder of their party members even if they happen due to personal enmity.
The Puthiya Tamizhagam Katchi (PTK), led by Dr K Krishnasamy- a party which claims to work for the dalits and an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is still silent on the issue. The leader of the PTK has shared a photograph taken with Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur on his facebook account. He is busy attending meetings of RSS and finds no time to address issues of untouchability and even wants the Devendrakula Vellalar community to be removed from the Scheduled Caste (SC) list.
The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) another party of the dalits, after a long silence announced on Monday that it will conduct a demonstration in Tirunelveli condemning the killing. Other parties like the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by Vaiko, Dravidar Kazhagam and Communist Party of India registered their protest immediatly on the murder.
Vote bank politics silencing major parties
The dominant caste’s vote bank attributes to the silence of the major political parties in the state. The Mukkulathor community also referred as Devar community includes the Agamudaiyar, Maravar and Kallar sub-castes. All the six persons arrested in the murder, belong to the Maravar community. This community is highly influential in 11parliamentary constituencies (Converts to sixty six assembly constituencies) out of the 39 lok sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu.
The AIADMK enjoys a considerable influence among the community and that is precisely the reason why O Panner Selvam was hand-picked twice by late J Jayalalitha to the Chief Minister’s post when she was forced to quit as a result of the court’s verdict in the disproportionate asset case. The DMK too, with the intention of wooing the community to their fold- citing the lack of charismatic leadership in the AIADMK, chose to remain silent on the issue.
Media Reports on the Killing
Majority of the print media reported the killing but suppressed the fact that communal tensions had led to the murder. Many of the tamil print media restricted the issue to their district editions. The electronic media, which continue to thrive for and on the TRP ratings, did not find the killing of a youth who fought against the communal discrimination as an important issue.
The new generation news channels which conduct hour long debates on socially irrelevant issues, have not found time to debate on the issue either. The present day media under the corporate leadership, dedicate time on manufacturing opinions and multiplying their profit instead of concentrating on issues affecting the people.
A Cadre lost for DYFI and CPI(M)
The DYFI and CPI(M) have lost a valued cadre in its ranks. Ashok, even at the ripe age of 23, had grown in the ranks of both the organisation and the party within a short span of time. Both his brothers are active members of the DYFI and the CPI(M). A DYFI member said, “whatever issue affecting the people comes up, Ashok would lead the struggle. Recently, we participated in the demonstration against the (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test). He was very much interested in blood donation for the needy. He was instrumental in conducting various sports activities aimed at bringing harmony among all the communities living in his village. But, some communally venomous people have taken his life”.
Another CPI(M) activist said, “the issue which happened a month back, in which Ashok and his mother were attacked by the dominant caste people, has resulted in the killing. The police with the aim of forcing Ashok to withdraw the case for the attack last month, filed a case against him. The police and the administration have the habit of yielding to the pressure of the dominant caste people and decimating the oppressed class people of their rights”.
“No more killing in the name of caste”- Ashok’s Mother
Avudaiyammal, the 60 year old mother of Ashok has assured the CPI(M) and DYFI leaders that she will participate in all the struggles against caste atrocities. She has also said that his son’s murder should be the last in the name of caste. The will power of the mother has taken the leaders and cadres by surprise.
With issues related to untouchability and honour killings increasing in the state of Tamil Nadu, it is the duty of the Government as well as all the major political parties to involve actively in curbing such instances. The silence of the government and the parties will only add fuel to the raging anger among people against such atrocities and the silence, in no way, brings solution. The ‘Periyar Land’ as claimed by the parties of the state, will have to face further embarrassment if such cruel activities are permitted to continue.