CHENNAI: A disturbing pattern of mainstream political parties in the Dravidian heartland maintaining a stoic silence whenever Dalits are at the receiving end is emerging in Tamil Nadu leaving those working for the marginalised communities fuming.
Though it has been a week since a postmortem report confirmed that a Dalit engineering graduate, Gokulraj, who was in love with a Gounder girl, was murdered in Namakkal, none of the mainstream Dravidian parties have spoken up on the crime. A similar silence was conspicuous when Dalit youth Ilavarasan, whose Vanniyar wife Divya had walked out on him seemingly under duress from community leaders, was found dead near a railway track in Dharmapuri two years ago.
Such silence is not seen when minorities are under attack ostensibly because they constitute a distinct vote bank. In contrast, these parties fear that supporting the Dalits in controversial issues could alienate the dominant Hindu community.
The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a former ally of the DMK and AIADMK, has openly expressed frustration that except the Left parties, the mainstream parties did not even condemn Gokulraj’s murder.
“None of the major parties have even condemned the murder or demanded the arrest of the accused as they are afraid of losing the votes of the dominant community. They appear confident that they can receive Dalit votes by deceiving them. The lack of Dalit consolidation is helping them get away with their apathy to such issues,” felt Vanniarasu, spokesperson, VCK.
The equidistance maintained by the Dravidian parties has invited harsh comments in social media as well. So much so that some have accused even Dravidian movement’s patriarch Periyar E V Ramasamy of backing caste Hindu landlords who torched 44 Dalits in Keezhavenmani in December 1968.
However, Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) vice-president Kali Poongundran denies that Periyar endorsed the crime. While he refused to comment on the silence of the DK’s offshoots in the Ilavarasan and Gokulraj cases, he said the DK had condemned the killings. Citing a statement published in the DK mouthpiece ‘Viduthalai’ on December 28, 1968, Poongundran said: “Periyar had condemned the Keezhavenmani massacre. He flayed the Central and State governments for not protecting the Dalits.”
Social activist and commentator A Marx also charged the Dravidian parties with ignoring the honour killings for their vote bank politics. “All mainstream parties should publicly declare that they will not ally with caste-based outfits and isolate them,” he said.