Anti-Brahmin upper caste politics of DMK and neglect of Dalit
After engineering hatred against Brahmins, God and Hindi, DMK swept power in Tamil Nadu in 1967 with the promise that the party would create new social order and justice. C.N. Annadurai became the first DMK Chief Minister of TN. He amended laws for self-respect and gave gold medals to encourage inter-caste marriage and also renamed the state. Such a historic reformist’s governance also had a dark side – the Kilvenmani massacre that took the life of 44 farm workers belongs to schedule caste who were burnt to death due to wage struggle. But the government showed callous attitude towards the massacre.
The work of Mythily Sivaram clearly shows how DMK downplayed the massacre and erased the same from public memory. The demise of Annadurai, M Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister of the state in 1969 and introduced the schemes of concrete houses for SCs under Slum Clearance Board and increased the % of reservation to different backward communities.
The second term of M. Karunanidhi (1971 to 1976) witnessed the resignation of the prominent women Harijan Welfare Minister Sathyvani Muthu accusing M Karunanidhi for neglecting the interest of Dalit. She later formed a party called Thazthapattor Munnetra Kazhagam and later the party merged with MGR’s AIADMK in 1977.
Sathyavani Muthu could not affect the winning prospects of DMK because Harijan community was never a significant factor for DMK or its parent body as the party was always dominated by high caste non-Brahmin communities. The another Dalit face of the party Mr. Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, who defeated Sathyvani Muthu in 1984 later joined AIADMK citing the same reasons as Sathyavani Muthu.
The allegation of no respect for Dalit in DMK had good substance. For example, the Coimbatore-based senior Dalit DMK leader who was a contemporary of Annadurai, CT Dhandapani was once publicly insulted on the basis of his caste by the then local minister Pongalur Palanisamy and his wife, both of whom belong to the powerful OBC Kongu Vellala Gounder caste. Similarly even during the times of Justice Party, Dalit leader M.C. Rajah quit the party citing lack of sincerity in DMK towards untouchability.
The third term of M. Karunanidhi (1989 to 1991) saw the fulfilment of Vanniyar demand for a separate reservation which was denied by MGR. In 1987 Vanniyars resorted to agitation against Dalit and most backward and burned nearly 5000 huts etc. The response of the state towards such incident was quite pitiable.
The term of M Karunanidhi in 1996 was quite tough as Dalit renaissance again started to challenge him ideologically and the political chemistry between left, Puthiya Tamilagmam and Dalit Panthers of India started to worry him. During this period Southern TN faced worst caste clashes between Mukkulathors and Devendra Kula Vellalars along with Dalit which changed the political landscape of Tamil Nadu. This had pushed the culture of DMK towards caste appeasement politics.
As a result of such politics, M Karunanidhi introduced Veeran Sundarlingam Transport Corporation and then he made himself in a soup of bitter caste conflicts. Thevars started to push their demand and finally DMK has to remove its appeasement politics of naming transport survives with the names of communities.
To revive his image as the true crusader of social justice, he invented a new very poorly thought over idea called Samathuvapurams but that flopped badly. Only remarkable thing is that his elder son Azhagiri married a Devendra kulla vellalar and led an example for social justice.
During the fifth term, M Karunanidhi, he cleverly used the alliance strategy with Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi to rebuild his image among Dalit. Besides politics, M Karunanidhi also at intellectual level deceived Dalit by not giving their due share of recognition.
The very idea of Dravidian identity itself was conceived in 1886 by Rev. John Rathinam a Dalit priest and the Dravida Mahajana Sabha was formed in 1991 by Iyothee Thass another Dalit face. None of these persons were ever recognized by DMK.
The Madras united league a non-Brahmin organization formed under C Natesa Mudaliar in 1912 was renamed as Dravidian association without even acknowledging the progenitors of them who were Dalit.
The non-Brahmin, upper caste culture of DMK cleverly suppressed the role of prominent leaders of Dalit such as Rettamalai Srinivasan, MC Rajah, N Sivaraj, Meenambal Sivaraj etc,
The caste politics of DMK under Karunnidhi was revolving around certain communities such as Thevar, Kongu Vellalars and Vanniyars. In many districts such as Salem, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Karur, Thanjavur etc., the dominance of ministers and party leaders from the local dominant castes even Karunanidhi could not control.
In DMK, the chance of a Dalit district secretary competing against the powerful caste in the respective region was almost a day dream.
The allocation of ministerial berths was also done only on caste basis where Dalit were given only insignificant ministries like Adi Dravidar welfare or animal husbandry.
The untouchable remain untouchable in Tamil Nadu during the entire DMK regime except some symbolic gestures and DMK also brought Brahmins into the untouchable list of people.
If the untouchable Brahmins and Dalit join together with Narendra Modi led BJP, a New Tamil Nadu is possible and the present Dravidian politics can be banished.
Instead of creating a casteless state, caste majoritarian appeasement politics only DMK perfected to come to power and to retain good will of such caste arithmetic, the Dalit were side lined, silenced and silently neglected along with fueling hatred against Brahmins.
Undoubtedly DMK used anti Brahmin plank as one of its masks to show it is for the oppressed class but how far the oppressed class reformed and came to the mainstream in comparison with the caste intermediaries in TN remain a million dollar question. Nevertheless DMK sowed dream and reaped gold and certainly Brahmins heavily paid for DMK’s success in Tamil Nadu.