Chennai, Dec. 3: If caste is an impediment to the marriage of true hearts, say “I do” on Valentine’s Day.
The Shiv Sena will certainly not like it, but some political outfits in Tamil Nadu have sought to invoke St. Valentine to promote inter-caste marriages after a love affair between a Dalit boy and a Vanniyar girl re-ignited caste tensions in the state.
K. Veeramani, a leader of the Dravidar Kazhagam, a social outfit fighting caste discrimination, said Valentine’s Day would henceforth be celebrated as love marriage and inter-caste marriage day.
“On the one hand, we want the authorities to crack down on those promoting enmity using caste and targeting Dalits. On the positive side, we would like to encourage love marriages that break caste barriers and for this we would use Valentine’s Day, which is already popular among youngsters to celebrate love,” Veeramani said.
In Mumbai, however, self-appointed culture cops from the Sena have often beaten up and terrorised Valentine’s Day couples in the name of Indian culture.
But that hasn’t stopped Veeramani from invoking the third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14.
Veeramani’s announcement followed last month’s violence in Dharmapuri district where Vanniyars had set fire to nearly a hundred Dalit houses after a Vanniyar farmer committed suicide after his daughter eloped with a Dalit youth.
Sources said Veeramani, who met leaders from the CPM, CPI, VCK (a Dalit party) and other parties today, wanted to counter a call by S. Ramadoss, founder of the Vanniyar-dominated PMK, urging cadres to fight the “diabolic trap being laid for unsuspecting Vanniyar girls by Dalit boys”.
His son, former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss, went a step further, accusing Dalit boys of cheating Vanniyar girls under the guise of love only to blackmail them later and extort money from their families.
Vanniyars, among the most backward of other backward communities, and Dalits each account for 15 per cent of the state’s population. While caste conflicts have erupted in south Tamil Nadu between Dalits and Thevars, another powerful backward community that also accounts for 15 per cent of the state’s population, Dalits have sought to revolt against Vanniyar dominance in the north.
Lest he is accused of egging on only Vanniyars, Ramadoss yesterday called a meeting of leaders from a few other backward communities, and urged that the Scheduled Caste act be amended so that a person arrested for allegedly abusing a Dalit can get bail at the police station itself.
Under the act, a Dalit can file a police complaint against any person for abusing him or her by using their caste name.
Although Ramadoss alleged that the act was being misused, political observers said he was playing the “love card” merely to regain his clout among the Vanniyars who once used to vote almost en bloc for the PMK, making it a much sought-after ally.
But the party has been politically sidelined ever since it got routed in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections — zero out of six contested — and managed just three out of 30 seats it contested in the 2011 Assembly polls.
While actor-politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK has eaten into the PMK’s captive vote bank, disenchanted Vanniyars had moved away from the party as they viewed Ramadoss as someone who was using the PMK to promote his son and a few close relatives under the guise of Vanniyar consolidation.