Again a boy belonging to a scheduled community has been killed. This time for marrying a ‘Devar’ community girl. Tamil Nadu has seen quite a few such violent killing of scheduled community boys by local dominant community goons. Hindu boys have been killed for marrying Muslim girls. Muslim women have been killed for speaking to Hindu men. Cold-blooded killings and staged suicides that are really murders by dominant local castes have been regular happenings in the state. So-called ‘honour’ and ‘revenge’ killings have reached another level of inhuman depravity in the Dravidian land.
The reasons are not far to seek. Jaathi has been a misunderstood category in Indian politics. Except politicians none else have understood the potential of this category in social life. Politicians while making full use of Jaathi have also been using it as a stick to beat Hinduism with. This has created a schizophrenic society filled to the brim with cognitive dissonance. Every party talks about annihilation of caste and yet goes through caste equations before fielding candidates in elections. This is not limited to Tamil Nadu. For example, in Gujarat it was the ‘secular progressive’ Congress party that devised the unique caste-vote bank politics with the KHAM formula. In 1999, in Bihar, when Dalits were massacred under Lallu-Rabri regime, the secular brigade was up in arms against imposing President’s rule. In Tamil Nadu, Dravidian parties which regularly blamed Hinduism and Brahmins for caste have been silent over inhuman attacks on scheduled communities. EVR (E V Ramasamy or Periyar) was silent when non-Brahmin Naidu landowners burnt and massacred scheduled community workers during the DMK regime. He blamed everyone from Brahmins to Gandhi to democracy to Communists for inciting the landless labourers and conveniently remained silent about the perpetrators of the massacre. In fact, there has been accumulative communalizing of secular posts for the non-scheduled community non-Brahmin upper castes by the supremos of Dravidian parties. Regarding almost all atrocities against scheduled caste communities in Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian parties have remained either silent or made use of the event to abuse ‘Brahminical Hinduism’.
The Hindutva organizations in Tamil Nadu are also caught in their own myopic worldview when it comes to scheduled community issues. While cadres and organizations have definitely worked for the cause of empowerment and social harmony they have lacked the vigour and vision to aggressively put forth an anti-casteist Hindu-Sanghathan view. There has been an increased tendency to see ‘caste’ as a socio-economic capital and oppose inter-caste marriages. This is despite the fact that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat claimed that RSS is the single largest organization in India with highest number of inter-caste marriages.
There are certain in-built advantages BJP and Hindutva organizations have when compared to Dravidian parties. With the belief in racial interpretation of caste structure, Dravidian parties are at a loss to explain the intricate web and dynamics of Jaathi structures in Tamil Nadu. Hindutvaites, on the other hand, are better equipped to understand Jaathi as occupational groups and recognise cultural heritage. In Dravidian historiography as well as in Leftist rhetoric, scheduled communities and tribes are oppressed communities with no glorified past and any contribution to Indian culture. At best, they were golden utopias vanquished by cunning Aryans and at worst they have no credible glory under Indian culture. However, today the scheduled communities are opposing this victim-hood characterization. They claim themselves and with evidence, as the proud co-creators of this culture. This gels well with the Hindutva social vision. Further, for inter-community marriages, Hindutvaites have the socio-cultural as well as psychological tools to provide the basic support to such couples and their families without alienating them from the society and their cultural roots. Each and every Hindu deity can be traced to an occupational group and all deities form a large pantheon of divine family.
Thus Deivasena the celestial wife of Murugan is associated through local legends to coastal communities. Valli, his other wife, is a tribal princess. Rukmini, the consort of Yadava Krishna, is also worshiped in this writer’s home town by coastal communities. Murugan is associated with the trader community. As a famous Vaishnavite preacher told this writer in a personal conversation, if only the OBC community which pits itself against the scheduled castes knows the socio-spiritual significance of Thirumangai Alzhwar (of OBC community) and Thriupannazhwar (scheduled community) being placed together in the sanctum of Vishnu temples and worshiped equally, how much the caste conflicts would vanish. Hence, inter-community marriages should be welcomed by Hindu activists and they should devise rituals to eulogize such events that bring communities which have been turned against each other by vested interests and social stagnation together.
Thus the Hindutva organizations have the tools and frameworks to prevent these murders from happening in Tamil Nadu and this makes their responsibility doubly heavy. Perhaps the BJP should come with the idea of counselling centers for the parents and relatives of couples who have inter-community marriages and help them come to terms with changing times.
A really worrisome factor in many incidents is the abject ‘Genovese syndrome’ displayed by the onlookers. The notorious public murder of Ketty Genovese in United States, in which the onlookers did not intervene, even as she was stabbed in front of them, shocked the US. It became the center of various psychological studies. Social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané showed that larger numbers of bystanders actually diffuse responsibility and decrease voluntary intervention. Does this mean we are becoming similar to Western societies where we view ourselves more as individuals with specific responsibilities and have lost the communal connectivity? If at one level we shirk our community spirit as individuals and at another level embrace Jaathi identity then that is a very dangerous cocktail. This is not the community spirit of Tamil Nadu a few generations back. An atomized and communally polarized society is a dangerous imploding society. All technological and educational progress we speak of may become of no value if we continue to travel in this downward spiral. So it is high time we revamp our educational system to inculcate the democratic community spirit in our children. From where can we get that democratic community spirit?
Dr.Ambedkar points to the Mahavakhyas of Upanishad that talk about the non-dualist feeling that all are part of one cosmic reality. If only we make our children realize this civilizational value from childhood can we stop such tragedies from happening in the future.
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