Moving up the caste ladder

A  section of voters belonging to the Devendra Kula Vellalar community—also known as Pallars—boycotted the bypoll to the Nanguneri Assembly constituency on Monday.

Published: 24th October 2019 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th October 2019 02:16 AM   |  A+A-

A  section of voters belonging to the Devendra Kula Vellalar community—also known as Pallars—boycotted the bypoll to the Nanguneri Assembly constituency on Monday. They were heeding a call given by political leaders of the community, beginning with Puthiya Tamilagam chief Dr K Krishnasamy. The PT allied with the ruling AIADMK for Lok Sabha elections and bypolls to 21 Assembly constituencies earlier this year. However, the party snapped ties with the AIADMK recently over what it alleges are failures to meet its demands. 

The PT has two key demands. First, it wants the seven sub-sects of the community to be regrouped and called the Devendra Kula Vellalars. The government has formed a committee to look into this. It is considering renaming six sub-sects together. An expert report is said to advocate for this but a final decision has not yet been taken. It is this delay that has led to the poll boycott. Second, it wants the community to be removed from the Scheduled Castes list on grounds that discrimination against it stems from inclusion into the list by the British. Once TN decides to oblige, the ball will be in the sympathetic Centre’s court. 

However, given the far-reaching consequences of these demands, it would appear fair for the state to proceed with caution and care. While the first demand does appear to have some support from the community, reports indicate the community may be split on the second. The SC categorisation does offer wide benefits—especially in terms of reservation—and protections to members of a community facing significant oppression in the state.

While the community may seem relatively better off compared to members of the two significant Dalit communities—Paraiyars and Arundhathiyars—sections remain backward and poor, facing fatal discrimination from intermediate communities. That this discrimination is solely rooted in the SC categorisation and will vanish once they are shifted to a different category is an arguably flawed reasoning. The state must proceed with caution. It must reach out to broad sections of the community, especially the most backward and oppressed, and explain the consequences of following through on the demands. Only with broad consensus should such a change be made.


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