The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) which had its inception here in Madurai three years ago was borne out of historic necessity as the place had been a centre to various forms of overt and covert practices of untouchability, said S.K. Ponnuthayi, district secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association.
Delivering the presidential address at TNUEF’s first Madurai District Conference here on Monday, she said that despite the fact that we have governments changing every five years, there has been no improvement on the socio-economic conditions of Dalits, and whenever there is assertion on their part there is a simultaneous increase in their oppression by the dominant castes.
K. Samuel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF, said that the capitalistic, feudalistic, and caste-based social order prevalent here has given the dominant castes a right to exploit the weaker sections of the society and it is this social order which needs to be overthrown and it needs relentless struggle on the part of Ambedkarites, Marxists and Periyarists who have joined together here.
Speaking about discrimination, he said that the forms of practices of untouchability time and again has been re-invented and given a new shape, for example in Pudukkottai, the few Dalits who own lands were allowed to cultivate or use water resources only after the dominant castes use them for their purposes. In most of the southern districts, the Dalits are still not allowed to participate in auctions.
When it comes to understanding the caste dynamics even great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekananda have faltered as they were not able to work towards uprooting untouchability and it was here that contributions of leaders like Dr.Ambedkar, EVR Periyar and B.T. Ranadive becomes important as they fought tooth and nail to eradicate untouchability and worked towards creation of a casteless society, he said.
Mr.Samuel Raj highlighted that Ambedkar even cautioned the socialists and in his work Annihilation of Castehe mentions about the need to look into social order, “Caste is the monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform; you cannot have economic reform, unless you kill this monster.”
A book titled Uthapuram: Udaiyum Saathiyam(Uthapuram: Breaching Caste) written by P. Kavitha Kumar, State committee member, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association, was released on the occasion. The first copy of the book was released by P. Sampath, State president, TNUEF and was received by K. Swaminathan, All India Insurance Employees Association. The book talks about struggles related to the demolition of untouchability wall in Uthapuram.
The conference also decided to take forward its struggles against untouchability in a much more spirited way joining hands with democratic forces and the following resolutions were passed at the conference. Even after the Madras High Court’s 2008 Order of banning entry into manholes and mechanisation of conservancy work, there were instances where conservancy workers were made to involve in the job. Reports tell us that more than 2,000 men have died out of asphyxiation in the State while doing this work. The Government should impose a ban in a complete way.
The demands of Dalits in Uthapuram like construction of drainage and bus shelter, worshipping rights at Muthalamman Temple and proper access to the pathway opened by the Government should be ensured.
The long pending demand for community certificates by ST members of Malaivedan, Kaatunaicker and Paliyar communities in Madurai should be looked into and they should be issued certificates.
The State should immediately open centres to create awareness on eradication of untouchability, seminars should be conducted regularly to sensitise people on this crime against humanity. Atrocity cases should be completed without any delay and the offenders should be punished according to the law.
The compartmental reservation meant for Arunthathiyar Dalits should be implemented fully. Most of the landless agricultural labourers belong to Dalit communities so it becomes imperative for the Government to provide land pattas, allot cluster houses for Dalits both in rural and urban areas.