Ganesh (Peoples Democracy)
IN a customary way, the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) conducts direct action programmes on September 30, the death anniversary day of Comrade B Srinivasa Rao, whose tireless work against untouchability and atrocities on dalits in erstwhile Thanjavur has left indelible mark.
Although the struggle against untouchability in the state goes on almost 24x7, there is an emotional touch to this direct action programme since it is attached to this great leader’s name. TNUEF takes inspiration from the past achievements that were gained by the Left movement under the leadership of Comrade B Srinivasa Rao. In fact, his unfinished agenda is being carried forward further by the TNUEF.
This year, the direct action programme was planned in seven places. Prior to this, field surveys were undertaken at the state level. Last time, the survey was conducted in 2007. Several struggles were undertaken based on the reports of that survey. In its last meeting, the state committee of the TNUEF had decided to conduct a fresh survey to analyse the latest scenario. The work of compiling these survey reports is underway. Meanwhile, some of the untouchability practices that have come out from this survey were earmarked for direct action programme.
Hundred Years Dream Comes True in Erode
IN Erode district, Ezhumathur village, for more than 100 years, dalits were not allowed to enter the Chathiswaran Temple. This was revealed during the field survey that was done by the TNUEF. As part of the direct action programme, the TNUEF had announced that dalit people will go to the temple and worship under the leadership of P Sampath, TNUEF president, K Thangavel, MLA, N Amirtham, state president of AIDWA and others.
Sensing the mood among the people and the firmness of the TNUEF, the dDistrict administration was forced to call for talks. The talks were held on September 28. The TNUEF insisted during the talks that not just the entry into the temple, the community hall that is being occupied should also be available for dalits. The administration had to concede the demands. On the same day, at 5.30 PM, dalit people from Kootapalli, Sivananda Colony, Selvan Nagar, Anna Nagar, Ponvizha Nagar and other villages walked into the temple and worshipped.
During this temple entry, K Durairaj, CPI(M) state committee member, P Mari Muthu, CPI(M) district secretary, M Annadurai, TNUEF district president, PP Palani Samy, TNUEF district secretary and others took part. The dalit people thanked the TNUEF and the CPI(M) for having enabled the dream since hundred years to come true.
Successful Temple Entry in Tiruvannamalai
IN Tiruvannamalai district, Kalasapakkam Panchayat Union, Siruvallur village, dalits were not allowed into Narayana Perumal Temple. Also, in this village, two tumbler system in the tea stalls, denial of road to cremation ground etc existed. As planned, the direct action programme was conducted on September 30. Hundreds of dalit people led by K Balakrishnan, MLA, K Samuel Raj, TNUEF general secretary, R Velmurugan, DYFI state secretary, had proceeded towards the temple. The casteist elements had assembled on the road that leads to the temple.
The district administration and the police that intervened, told the leaders and the dalits that there is no denial of entry into the temple. But the leaders insisted that the people should be taken into the temple immediately. With the leaders and the people standing firm, the entry was allowed. The seventy-year old untouchability practice was put to an end.
Right to Enter the Own Land in Dindigul
IN Dindigul district, Oddanchanthiram town, Kudalingapuram, pattas were given to 48 dalit Arunthathiyar families, 32 years back. Though the land was measured as per the area allotted to them, it was not handed over to them. Years gone, the value of the land ran into crores of rupees. Repeated petitioning by the people did not settle the issue. Hence, they decided to undertake a direct action programme under the leadership of the TNUEF. The Front has also announced that this programme would be part of the direct action day programmes that will be conducted on September 30.
The talks that were arranged prior to the action day did not yield any result. On 30th, more than a thousand people took part in the rally and the siege. It was led by P Sampath, R Jayaraman, TNUEF treasurer, K Bala Bharathi, MLA, N Pandi, CPI(M) district secretary, K Chinna Karuppan, TNUEF district president, M R Muthu Samy, TNUEF district secretary and others. The administration held talks with the leaders and agreed to hand over the land to the dalit Arunthathiyars.
Untouchability Gate Demolished in Ooty
IN Ooty (Niligiris), Coonoor, Gandhipuram, the dalit Arunthathiyars were denied entry through the common road. A private company had put up a gate to block the way. The TNUEF saw it as an untouchability practice. Many demonstrations were held to draw the attention of the administration. They kept repeating the promises that were never fulfilled. Hence, a decision was taken to go for direct action programme under the leadership of the TNUEF and the CPI(M).
On September 30, the dalit Arunthiyars led by P Dilli Babu, MLA, U K Sivagnanam, TNUEF state secretary, R Badri, CPI(M) district secretary, L Thiyagarajan, CITU district secretary and others proceeded towards the untouchability gate. Talks were held for four hours and no decision was forthcoming. The leaders saw it as a delaying tactic. They had informed the administration that they would demolish the gate themselves.
With this, the administration had no other alternative except to demolish the gate. Finally, the gate was broken in front of jubilant dalit people who were denied entry for the last 50 years.
“First time” hair cuts and tea in Thanjavur
IT was for the first time that dalit people could get a hair cut and tea in their village. In Thanjavur district, Orathanadu, Echankottai village, two tumbler system and denial of haircut existed for many years. Dalits had to go miles away for having a hair cut. Separate tumblers have kept them discriminated for years together. The announcement of direct action programme led by Nagai Mali, MLA, had put the administration on alert.
Timely intervention by the administration had helped to put an end to the untouchability practice. It was decided that the dalit people will be served in the common tumblers and will have hair cuts at the local saloons on September 29. Enthusiastic local dalits led by Ganesh, TNUEF state secretary, J Rajmohan, SFI state secretary, G Neelamegam, CPI(M) district secretary, Abhi Mannan, TNUEF district president, Chinnai Pandian, TNUEF district secretary, proceeded to the saloons and the tea stalls at 12 PM.
Tehsildar and local police had played a vital role in bringing some non-dalits to take part in the event. They made it sure that dalits had hair cuts in two saloons in that area. This was the first time that dalits had hair cut in those saloons. Also, they were served with tea in all the three tea stalls. These actions have put an end to the vicious untouchability practices in that area.
Hair Dressing in Madurai
IN Madurai district, Vadipatti town panchayat, dalits were not allowed to have hair cut in the saloons. This was also revealed during the survey conducted by the TNUEF in August. The TNUEF had listed out the saloons that were refusing cut hair for dalits and handed over to the district administration. Sensing that the administration is hesitating to act, it was decided to conduct direct action programme under the leadership of P Shanmugam, AIKS state secretary, on September 30.
Talks were held by the administration with the Hair Dressers Association and finally the Association had to agree to the demands of the dalits. The leaders and the dalit people were firm in having hair cut on September 30. But the administration said that this would be done on September 29 itself. They also assured that the untouchability practice would be put to an end with this.
On September 20, dalit people under the leadership of M Thangaraj, TNUEF state secretary, S K Ponnuthai, TNUEF state secretary, C Ramakrishnan, CPI(M) district secretary, D Chellakannu, Boominathan, N P Ramesh Kannan, district leaders of the TNUEF, Thamizhalan, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s state assistant secretary, Viduthalai Veeran, state joint general secretary, Athi Thamizhar Peravai and others, went to the saloons. In all the three saloons, hair cut was done to dalits.
Successful Bath by Dalits in Virudhunagar
THIS was the first victory in the direct action programme. In Virudhunagar district, V Muthulingapuram, the dalit Arunthathiyars were denied permission to take bath in the common water tank. Here, 70 Arunthathiyar families are residing. The petitions to the administration yielded no result. Hence, the decision for direct action programme led by A Lazar, MLA. There were other issues also like, denial of path to the cremation ground, non-filling up of drinking water tank, making the dalit students to clean the toilets in the school etc.
The water tank was built in 2011-12. When the Arunthathiyar youth tried to take bath, the casteist elements resisted them. During another attempt, they made the tank empty by releasing out the water. The announcement that the direct action will be held on September 30 had unnerved the district administration. They came forward for the talks.
During the talks, under the insistence of the TNUEF leaders, the district administration had to agree for all the demands regarding the untouchability practices. On September 21, the dalit Arunthathiyars took bath in the common water tank. C Murugesan, TNUEF district president, S Gnana Guru, TNUEF district secretary, M C Pandian, CPI(M) area committee secretary, along with the leaders of various organisations took part in this.
In the direct action programme that was conducted across the state, leaders and activists of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Athi Thamizhar Peravai, CITU, DYFI, SFI, AIDWA, AIKS, AIAWU, AIIEA have taken part in the talks and direct action programmes. The state committee of the TNUEF has congratulated and appreciated the achievements and the efforts put in by all. These events will have its echo in many parts of the state. Also, the momentum gained by this emphatic victory, will also be intensified further.