CHENNAI: When V Shankar was cold-bloodedly hacked to death in broad daylight in the small town of Udumalpet in western Tamil Nadu in 2016, it shocked the country and continued to be in the headlines at least for a few days. Shankar was executed since he, being a Dalit, had married his lover, who hails from a caste Hindu community.
The “honour killing”, whose cruelty was laid bare by a CCTV footage, triggered angry reactions from almost everybody in Tamil Nadu, except the two leaders in the state — the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and opposition leader M Karunanidhi. They both maintained stoic silence till the end.
And not many questioned it for the reason was as obvious as it was to anyone with a little understanding of Tamil Nadu’s politics.
It goes without saying that both Dravidian majors had scripted their electoral success on the votebanks of “backward castes” and they would not do anything, not even issue a customary statement condemning a murder, that may not go down well with any of these caste groups.
The phenomenon is not new.
Dalit activists recall how the police during the tenure of K Kamaraj acted tough during the 1954 Mudukulathur riots, but in striking contrast was how the state machinery responded under the C N Annadurai-led government during the 1968 Keezhvenmani massacre.
Sexagenarian actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan who are getting ready for their political plunge — obviously aspiring to fill the vacuum created by Jayalalithaa and the virtual absence of M Karunanidhi — have both promised that their politics will rise above casteism and communalism. But, if they achieve a significant electoral success, can they really rise above caste-based politics?
Their cinema stardom has ensured their popularity among people cutting across the caste and religious lines.
But analysts and political observers say it is easy to make a movie that appeals to different sections of the society. Certainly it is not that simple to do away with the caste factor in the politics.