In Hindutva vs Dravidian nationalism, where does Dalit politics stand in TN?

Dalit, VCK, Puthiya Tamilagam, Dalit party
Formed as a result of increased caste atrocities, Dalit parties seem to be finding it difficult to position themselves in the political spectrum between the proponents of Hindutva and the champions of now-softened Dravidian politics | Image - Eunice Dhivya

Back in the mid-1990s, a young and restless Satheesh Kumar found himself thrown into the vortex of a rising Dalit movement in Tamil Nadu amid growing caste-related violence. For Satheesh and many other Dalit youths like him, it appeared that the time had finally come when Dalit politics wouldn’t be overshadowed by the ‘non-inclusive’ Dravidian ideology that failed to mainstream the subalterns.

By the end of the decade, their hopes rose high with the two largest Dalit movements—Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (led by Thol Thirumavalavan) and the K Krishnasamy-led Puthiya Tamilagam—entering electoral politics with the promise of creating a platform which would include the Dalits and their issues in mainstream Tamil politics.

More than two decades later, Satheesh is no longer young nor hopeful. While the caste divides have inevitably deepened, atrocities against Dalits continue with absolute impunity in the state.

“The dreams that we saw in those heady days have remained just that—dreams,” says Satheesh. He, however, refuses to put all blame on either Thirumavalavan or Krishnasamy. He rather calls Thirumavalavan’s entry into the landscape of Dravidian politics as a watershed moment for Dalit politics. “Along with. Krishnasamy, Thirumavalavan succeeded in creating a Dalit voice for the first time in post-independent Tamil politics.”

To continue reading this article...

You have to be a Premium Subscriber

Start your subscription with a free trial

Enjoy unlimited Eighth column, archives and games on
The Federal.com and The Federal APP and many more features.
You will also be supporting ethical and unbiased journalism.
After trial subscription plans start from Rs. 99
Get breaking news and latest updates from India
and around the world on thefederal.com
FOLLOW US: