Wednesday, November 22, 2006

'Uproot Hindutva':Dalit Panther leader Thirumavalavan

For me the Wound is not new
Only the way I got wounded is new
This experience is as past as yesterday
Only the way I got experienced is new

Kilvenmani , Karamchedu, Tsundur, Belchi, Puliyangundi, Tamrabarani, Melavalapu, Thinniyam, Goundanpatti…
Now these places are familiar by atrocities on dalits, humiliations on dalits, insults on the dignity of dalits. Not only these incidents, there is discrimination and caste hegemony ruling everywhere in India. Whether it is Andhra , Tamilnadu, Bihar, Maharastra, whether it is a village or city, university, office, temple, street or any other public sphere. Our visibility could not be tolerated by the ruling castes. This is pan Indian phenomenon.
Now we the dalits resisting the hegemony of caste and taken the route of fighting. We are in the process of creating history. We stand collectively with ‘swayam maryada’.

As my poet friend Kalekuri sings ‘Now I’m Raised For a fist of self- respect’,
Twenty years ago my name was Kanchikacherla Kotesu
my birth place Keela Venmani, Karamchedu, Neerukonda
now the hardened cruelty of the landlords
tattooed on my chest with a plough’s point-chunduru
hence forth chunduru is not a noun but a pronoun
now every heart is a chunduru, a burning.
It is from these burnings of tamil society Thirumavalavan and Viduthali Chiruthagal (Dalit Panthers of India ) raised as a phoenix bird with a powerful message of libearation.
Though I’m from the neghbouring state Andhra Pradesh and actively involved in post Mandal dalit politics, I’m not heard of Thirumavalavan and Dalit panthers till recently. I came to know only through his translated books how radical the movement of dalit panthers is. How many dalits shed their life for dalit cause! How you people committed to philosophy of revolutionary Ambedkar. As the title of the book ‘Uproot Hindutva’ is the slogan given by Ambedkar. Now I’m seeing DPI committing to this ideology.

Uproot hindutva is Tirumavalavan’s the second translated work into English after ‘Talisman’. Where as ‘Talisman- the extreme emotions of dalit liberation’ is made from his column in Tamil weekly magazine of India Today, ‘Uproot Hindutva –the fiery voice of the liberation panthers’ is the collected speeches of him at various occasions in recent times. Both of them are meant for ‘others’, other than his own constistuency ‘dalits’. It may have its own limitations in expressing his views to larger tamil society and had a burden of convincing them for his cause. Of course he maintained consistency in all his writings and speeches without compromising his political stand. In assessing Tirumavalavam, one should not forget that he is more than these books. He is a leader, scholar, orator, cultural thereotician, social scientist with strong commitment for his own dalits and becoming a rallying point for many dalits. He is the symbolic representation social aspiration of lakhs of dalits. He is a conscious collective identity of dalits of Tamil society. His ideas have implications in reconstructing the indian nation and in creating new democratic society. The ongoing struggles of dalit panthers are helpful in understanding the Indian society from radical dalit perspective. It is not possible for anybody to see dalit panthers and Thirumavalavan separately.
As the statues of our national leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Bose are replaced by Ambedkar, as a powerful speaker/leader Thirumavalavan replaced all the Dravidian leaders like Annadurai, MGR and Karunanidhi etc. No tamil scholar matched for his rich enlightened vocabulary of popular tamil language. The translators had even struggle to get apt words in English.
Uproot Hindutva is the dalit panthers democratic war against the hindutva which are in hiding in the name of Indian nationalism. This is a dalits search for alternative to brahminised Dravidian politics of the day. These speeches are pointed against prevailing hegemony of the ideology of the uppercastes and conscious effort to establish the cultural and political hegemony of the oppressed for a democratic social order.
For dalits, politics, culture, struggle and life are not separate. Like any conscious dalit, Tirumavalan is the culmination of all. He is organic intellectual in a true spirit of Gramsci. He is the intellectual by social function in directing the ideas and aspirations of the dalits which he organically belongs to. He had a thinking and organizing element of a of dalits. As he pointed out there are two types of intellectuals, one is traditional and other is organic intellectuals. Traditional intellectuals are born from books and ends up with books. They are professionals. . Most of our university intellectuals and brahminical scholars comes under this. As you know very well that intellectuals emerges out of the social crisis and from social movements. We have seen so far there are separate category of intellectuals like poets, writers, critics exist from the political leaders of its corresponding movement. Dalit movement erased this distinction. Dalit intellectual has to play multiple roles as a historian, political leader, activist, cultural and literary person and from writing poetry to pasting posters. Dalit liberation is not easy task. He has to face so many hurdles. He has to prepare for many sacrifices. Whole community has to be asserted and consolidated. One can see all these elements in Thirumavalan in terms of thinking, expression and directing and organizing political party of dalits.

Thirumavalan and Tamil nationalism
In all his writings and speeches reflects his commitment to tamil nationalism. As you know there is social movement of tamilnadu without having influence of tamil nationalist liberation struggles. He started his career as a creative writer in support of tamil nationalist movement to Vidhuthalai Chirutugal, i.e. journey from struggles of tamil nationalism to dalit liberation. People like me curious to know the link between dalit politics and tamil nationalism. Very particularly in the context where Thirumavalavan and his party taking ignition to tamil names, What kind of logic he provides. Let me spell out my feelings in this issue. As you all know Dravidian politics overplayed this tamil nationalism. It is known fact that Thirumavalavan and dalits are critical about the contemporary Dravidian politics on the charge of acquired character of brahminisation. On the other hand tamil nationalism could not allow to open up the existing contradictions in tamil society. Tamil nationalism may conceals differences in tamil society by projecting itself as an universal category. Even the Brahmins can effectively use it by saying we are all tamilians and consequently dilute the struggles of the dalits of tamil society. only after reading Tirumavalan’s books I came to know his position and what potential it had in liberating the dalits. At first tirumavalavan counters Indian nationalism/hindu nationalism with tamil nationalism. Very often in his speeches he made his position clear that the ideologies of Hindutva and Brahminism are assimilated with Indian nationalism .the Indian government as an institution that protects the already established social, economic and political structures. Further he continues, the historical truth is that tamilians are not hindus. By identifying with hiunduism tamils can never destroy caste.Tamilian remaining as a hiundu could not defeat hindutva. Thirumavalavan’s tamilians is of no caste and religion of hindu. His tamil nationalism is linked up with the project of annihilation of caste. His conception of tamil identity encompasses with not only language but also culture, land, history, politics and the struggles of liberation. In that way dalit liberation politics and tamil nationalism are intimately connected.
Let me elobarate further, tamil identity is not just a linguistic identity. As an eminent philosopher Wittegenstein said language is the form of life. Life has to be understood as social life. Social life exists in our social relationships. The social relationships are much rooted in our cultural life. For Thirumavalavan, tamil identity means it is all. He believed that tamil society is much more democratic society. There is no trace of caste system and is different from Brahminism, Hinduism and Aryanism. This distinct identity is maintained for so many centuries. On contrary to this our existing relationships hierarchy prevails there exists one over the other. The caste system is responsible for this. The hindu religion had the sole responsibility for strengthening it. It is the characteristic of brahminism/Hinduism which is internalized into Indian nationalism. In the course of time even it influencing the tamilians. Again to revive tamil identity one has to necessarily annihilate this caste system.
One advangate of with holding tamil nationalism, is that Dravidian parties could not totally monopolise over the legacy of tamil nationalism and extends the space for dalit politics. For communists even today the question of nationality is unresolved. For the dalit politics of Thirumavalan and his party this problem doesn’t exist. But one thing has to be remained that when dalit liberation struggles are linked up the Tamil nationalism, it needs critical and creative intervention. Otherwise it loses its whole purpose.

Liberation of dalits is not an easy task. We have already seen so many sacrifices. Apart from the political, social, cultural and economic hegemony of upper castes dalits have to face the state and its machinery, the police, judiciary etc. To create dalit hegemony in all respect we have to armed culturally, and politically. Thirumavalan’s writings are testimony of this realization.
Bharat nayam is not some new dance form. Hindutva and casteism entered into our arts, into our culture- and our arts and culture assumed different forms. They changed the methods of worship. The mother of all this is the culture of the Cheri people, the arts of the Cheri people. Only we live a life of community. Only we have a culture of equality (p.7). It is our duty to protect the cultural aspects that awaken our liberation.
Commenting on the contemporary politics of tamilnadu, In the northern states, the uppercastes bear weapons and form private armies to protect their land and their power. In the same way, extremely regressive castiests, who call themselves leaders of Dravidian movement, mobilize the backward caste people against dalits. They build anti- Dravidian movements. They say we should not have political reservations. (1998 dalit performing art festival).
There is acriticism against Thirumavalavan that he is consciously ignoring the antibrahmin icon Periyar. He is gentle enough to say that how many Periyarist’ homes have Ambedkar’s photograph. One has to consider this seriously.

Reflecting on the anti conversion law of Jayalalitha, Religious conversion is a fundamental right for the dalits, the sons of the soil, to attempt to change their cultural identity in opposition to hindutva atrocities and casteist rampages. Religious conversion is the last weapon in the hands of dalit people, the cheri people, the proletariat.(154)

Not only pointing out caste discrimination, he made an effort to consolidate the democratic forces of tamil society. In fact he played a role in forming a third front, dalit parties alliance with Muslim and left parties. Even in the alliances he is catios of his subjective position. Dalits-muslims-leftists : an alternative to the Dravidian parties , third front in the name of people’s front formed 2004 parlimentary elections.
Atleast from this minute onwards dalits, minorities and leftists must have the long term perspective to realize that it s essential for them to rally together and convene under a single front, and they must act accordingly.
Casteism has not become a special objects for debate. A public opinion has been formed to oppose communalism. A public opinion has not formed to combat casteism. The issue of communalism is not side tracked as the problem of muslims. But casteism is sidelined as the problem of dalits. The perspective of viduthalai chiruthaigal is that unless this situation changes, it is not possible for he people to be this matter, a review is necessary among progressive forces…, if the CPI (ML) organizes agitations against casteism, we are ready to join hands with them. (p.28)
I’m concluding with the words of Thirumavalavan :
I don’t have the belief that by fighting and debating in the legislative assembly, in the parliament, we can retrieve our rights. Only through a people’s struggle we can liberate, we can protect the democratic rights- we can not lose this belief. We should never move away from this. Our right to struggle must never be destroyed.(p.53)
Dr.P.Kesava Kumar

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

these blogs influences the creamy layer dalits to do their duty in empanciating our brothers