We'll continue our social struggle: Dalit leader Thirumavalavan

CHENNAI: The 37-year-old R.Thirumavalavan, the new darling of the Dalit masses belonging to the Pariar sect, should consider himself lucky. He has managed to survive the ``Sunday massacre'' and would be the sole Dalit voice in the Tamil Nadu legislature.

Well, there are other Dalit MLAs belonging to other political parties, but Thirumavalvan, heading the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), would be considered a truer representative of the Dalit sentiments in that he hasuncompromisingly championed the cause of his community for over a decade now and only very reluctantly took to electoral politics.

That very image has been dented somewhat because of the alacrity with which he decided to join the DMK and contest on its symbol. With the DMK having been badly mauled and there is a perception that the non-Dalit sections have rallied against the DMK-front because of it alliance with the Dalit outfits,what is the future of the Dalit politics in the state? Thirumavalvan professes to be unfazed at the turn of events. ``Well, it's a shattering defeat. But that is not going to affect in any way the working of our organisation. We shall continue with our struggle for the rights and dignity of the Dalits,'' he said in an exclusive interview to the newspaper of this website.

Q: But then you have become a member of the DMK, almost losing your identity, unlike Krishsnaswamy whose Pudhiya Thamizhakam contested on a free symbol. How much of a flexibility you believe you would have as a DMK member of the house?

A:Well, I don't think Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) would act in such a way as to hamper the functioning of the (DPI). Our decision to contest on the DMK symbol was tactical, meant to win over the non-Dalit DMK voters too. To a certain extent it has been achieved, that apart we have not merged ourselves with the DMK, and we retain our independent identity. We'll continue to raise our voice inside and outside the legislature for the rights of the Dalits, there is no question about that.

Q: Do you apprehend the DMK would itself review its ties with you because of the results?

A: I don't know what those at the ground-level are feeling. But as far as the High Command is concerned there's no indication that they regret the alliance with the Dalit organisations. It is wrong to say that the non-Dalit castes did not vote for the DMK-led front because of the alliance. The vote-banks of the constituents of the AIADMK-front have held good, besides the MDMK also split the DMK's votes, plus Jayalalitha also generated some sympathy among the people following the rejection of her nomination papers. To say that Dalit-non-Dalit polarisation caused the debacle is a bit too simplistic, I'm afraid.

Q: You have been accused time and again of instigating violence. Now Dr.Ramadoss has emerged as a key-player. Many apprehend there could be more confrontation between the DPI and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)?

A: See how the elections went off smoothly without any incident. Dr.Ramadoss did his best to provoke us through incendiary propaganda, but we held our peace. Media personnel descended on Mangalur (from where Thirumavalvan contested) in large numbers. But nothing happened. Well, the PMK has been carrying on a vicious campaign against us, attributing to me all kinds of statements I never made. Such has been his strategy all along. If any violence erupts, he could cash in on it, but certainly we would not play into his hands. We've no problem with the Vanniars as a community. Only certain leaders like Ramadoss have a vested interest in fostering tensions, but I'm sure he'll fail in the long run.

Q: Tell us where do you go from here? Till two years ago you abhorred electoral politics. Then you lent a hand to the TMC in putting together a third front. And then you joined hands with the DMK and the BJP. Both the experiments seem to have failed?

A: Our tactics are always dictated by the exigencies of the day. Our goal is Dalit liberation. To reach that end we would do whatever we can. Non-parliamentary path we had stuck to in the belief that elections would not be of any great help to us. Then a time came, we had grown big enough and thought making ourselves heard in the legislature was an important aspect of our struggle. So here we are. The next phase is further consolidation of our positions and expanding our base in the south. We'd also gladly join hands with non-Dalit democratic forces to carry ourmessage across to the entire society. We've already gained greater acceptability and succeeded in erasing the wrong impression our adversaries have created about us. Dalits of every kind have some special grievances, the people have come to realise.

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Source: http://www.newindpress.com/newsItems.asp?id=IET20010517131321&eTitle=Southern+News+%2D+Tamil+Nadu&rLink=0
Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 21, 2001
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