Poll for-‘caste’

The familiar formula is back in fashion. Not that it ever was off vogue, but poll time is when it bares its fangs and rears its venom-spewing head most. Casteism, particularly in TN, is a generational curse. However, while displaying its ugliest face this week it also unmasked all the political facades that kept the poisonous pot boiling for their own survival and success.

The plot too is familiar. In Udumalpet, a Dalit youth marries a Thevar girl. Hired killers hack him dead in a public junction at high noon, which in tune with current trends, is also videographed and well, trends in social media. The girl too is hacked, but survives with grievous injuries. Her father surrenders next day and about five are arrested. The man is unrepentant at having almost murdered his own daughter and probably very sure that he and his henchmen would emerge unscathed!

Therein lies the tragedy. What emboldens those on the higher rungs of the caste order to perpetuate such crimes and still remain unfazed? A slew of skewed causes lie at the root, even at the national level, but we will stick to rational TN. The original sin should be placed at the doorstep of the Dravidian movement that camouflaged its duplicitous and devious designs under the garb of social justice. This cutting edge ideological missile of theirs was smartly tipped with the Brahminical bogey, an easy allure in those times for all to fall and get fired up. But these paragons however conveniently ignored the simmering volcano of non-Brahmnical casteism right under their nose.

All violent caste clashes in TN are within the Dravidian fold, with absolutely no ‘Aryan’ abetment whatsoever. The Udumalpet hackers would have cared less and very well carried out their bloody errand even if there was the ubiquitous Periyar statue watching over. Now is that social justice? This uncomfortable truth is hidden under the misnomer ‘caste Hindus’, an attempt to once again pass off the offenders as from the Brahminical or other uninvolved upper castes while in reality they are ‘pure and certified’ Dravidians. Also, matrimonial pages and demand for Dailt quotas show that ‘caste Christians’ too exist. There are undeniable social hierarchies in Islam too! Wither social justice?

Reservations were the most potent. This was a diabolical British ploy to divide Indian society and the TN-born Justice Party of early 20th century vintage was an eager votary that also helped push the country into the queer, quirky quota quagmire that haunts us till date. None can dispute that the depressed classes that have been so for centuries need to be elevated in every way possible. But this cannot be done to suit the poll timetable or power itches of shortsighted politicos. But impatient masses could be easily ignited to warm political cockles and egos. The very revolutionary social justice movement only helped party leaders flourish than it did its touted targets!

Here is one for the paradoxically inclined. Most of the ‘caste Hindus’ or ‘Upper Castes’ pulling out sickles via their back collars against their own but most often Dalits, are actually ‘Backward Classes and OBCs’ constitutionally! So, they casually run with the hares for quotas in education and jobs and hunt with hounds for social status! These intermediary castes have the physical, political, financial, numerical and social clout to influence polls. PMK and sundry Thevar outfits are classic examples. It is not very difficult today to deter an entire colony of Dalits from voting. Dalits dread to tread BC soil in many pockets of TN. To dare to marry across is to date death. To be cremated in different graveyard, of course.

And so we come back to the open murder and the public murder of this murder. A ghastly crime against a Dalit in daylight that easily fits into all the stereotypes of breaking, making, baking and frying news and qualifies as the ideal spoil for all that agitates a modern mind is however a non-issue. Even otherwise, TN is deemed an island in the national mind, cut off from mainland. If this has not caused a stir, then we wonder what will. Let’s start local. The AIADMK is all silence. The DMK treats this as one more case of bad L&O. Ditto with PMK, a past master in such matters. TN Cong is clueless and awaits clearance from Kushboo. It is unknown if BJP is even aware. Anyway, with polls and vote banks at stake, all parties will only ‘caste’ themselves in the same mould.

I expected Dalit champion Raul, a possible TN CM candidate courtesy Elangovan. He could halt at Udumalpet before heading to hide in the nearby hills for a holiday. Wonder why wonder-guy Kanhaiyya, who idolisies a Dalit who committed suicide for unclear reasons, should ignore another Dalit killed in cold blood by ‘upper castes’ for proclaimed reasons! And where are the Left liberals? Why is there no protest in JNU-beyond-borders? Does Chomsky know? Assuming many know Chomsky? Ah, yes, they are absent because this murder cannot be linked to Modi or Smriti Irani and so there is no fertile field for them to graze on.

One outcome is certain. As with everything TN, this latest but left out caste outrage is set to find complete consummation in celluloid. Movie reviews will make up for the missing reactions!

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Jawahar T R