TIRUCHY: It may come as a surprise that several leaders from Tamil Nadu condoled the death of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, while social media has plenty of obituaries of him in Tamil, something that is unusual in the state for a north Indian politician.
The outpouring of grief, however, pointed to Paswan’s old links to Tamil Nadu. Indeed he is remembered for his consistent stand on OBC reservation, particularly his role in the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations and his strong support for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause.
In their condolence messages, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and DMK president M K Stalin spoke about his ardent support for social justice.
Kali Poongundran, deputy president of Dravidar Kazhagam, said, "Paswan took part in several social justice conferences and rallies conducted by our movement across the state to press for the implementation of the Mandal Commission three decades ago. During that time, he visited Tamil Nadu several times and developed a strong rapport with leaders like M Karunanidhi and K Veeramani."
Not only in Tamil Nadu, even in New Delhi Paswan was invariably present in social justice meetings and events conducted by Tamil leaders and students.
Punitha Pandian, editor of Dalit Murasu, said, “As Paswan began his political career based on social justice, the Periyar movement in Tamil Nadu identified him with it. Perhaps, he was the only Dalit leader at that time who spoke in favour of reservation for OBCs.”
“Paswan was a firebrand speaker in Hindi. Yet through translation of his speeches in meetings here, he made a huge impact among the Tamil people. His arguments were sharp and he vouched for a Dalit-OBC coalition,” he said, adding that the spate of condolences pouring in now were for that Paswan and not the one from later years.
MDMK leader Vaiko, in his condolence message, recalled Paswan raising his voice for Sri Lankan Tamils in the Parliament. He also recollected Paswan’s presence in the event organized by ‘May 17 Movement’ at Chennai's Marina Beach in 2012 to pay respects to the Tamil people killed in Sri Lanka.
In that event, Paswan urged for a referendum for a separate Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. He demanded commutation of death penalty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. He also declared that he was against capital punishment.
Moreover, Paswan also participated in the conference in Chennai in 2012 convened by DMK leader M Karunanidhi on behalf of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO).
Though condolence messages from Tamils flooded social media, inevitably there was also criticism over him being a part of the BJP government.