As civil society tries hard to come to terms with the tragic end to an intense and stormy inter-caste love marriage of the Dharmapuri couple Ilavarasan and Divya, social activists have called for an uprising against caste hegemony in Tamil Nadu. The anger among right thinking citizens is evident as a personal relationship between two youngsters was politicised and polarised on caste lines resulting in Ilavarasan’s untimely death.
“This incident shows that a caste outfit can deny us the basic right to choose the kind of life we want to live. It can threaten you, blackmail you and can even ultimately push you to death. Ilavarasan’s death should teach us to unite against the outfits which perpetrate casteism in the State,” says noted poet-writer Manushya Puthiran.
Pretty much echoing the same sentiment, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam founder Kolathur Mani, says “ The nature and cause of Ilavarasan’s death is yet to be ascertained. But if it is a suicide, I think several people must be prosecuted for abetting it.”
The activist says it is an illusion that caste divide prevails only among adults. “In cities, it may not be evident. But in our villages, there is a striking divide even among school-going children. Recently, in a law college, Dr Ambedkar’s anniversary celebration was renamed as legal awareness day after students from a particular caste opposed it,” points out Mani.
However, a section of sociologists feels it would be inappropriate to come to such conclusions based on one incident.
“Even today, in States like Kerala and West Bengal, most have their caste as their surname. But that is not the case in Tamil Nadu. This in itself is an achievement of years of anti-caste politics in the State,” he says.
“But it is not possible to completely eradicate something which has been there for so long. In the last two days, there is not even a single posting in the social media supporting the PMK on the issue. So the PMK is now isolated and this shows that Tamil people have a conscience against casteism,” says Professor MSS Pandian of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
In Divya’s case, it is widely suspected that she decided against living with Ilavarasan after emotional blackmails from her family members.
“Emotional blackmails are so prevalent in our families. Parents see children as a property owned by them and as an extension of their caste. They often exploit the affection and trust of the children to force them to act only in the way they want,” says Manushya Puthiran.