Sunday, October 31, 2004

Build Strong Movement Against Untouchability

CPI(M)’s Call To The Youth

S P Rajendran

“Wherever the Red flag flies, we’ll destroy untouchability” – declared the leaders of CPI(M) at a public meeting held in Madurai, Tamilnadu, on October 21, 2004. The meeting was held during the state-level “Special Conference on Abolition of Untouchability”.

The special conference was organised by the CPI(M) Madurai urban and rural district committees as per the decision of the state committee and attended by people of southern districts. It was presided over by the CPI(M) legislator S K Mahendran.

N Varadarajan, CPI(M) state secretary, while inaugurating the conference drew the attention of the audience to the prevalence of untouchability in as many as 7,000 villages of Tamilnadu, in various forms as ‘double-tumbler’ system in tea stalls, denial of even basic rights such as wearing of chappals, use of umbrellas, entry to temples, participation in temple car festivals etc. He expressed his anguish at the elections not being held in certain panchayats reserved for dalits and called upon the working class of the state to rise in revolt against all forms of the cruelty of untochability, an anachronism in the modern scientific age. He also warned the state government that if it failed to intervene, thousands of cadres of CPI(M) would take up the task on themselves and fight against the injustice, with the cooperation of the like-minded parties and people.

K Varadarajan, CPI(M) central committee member and general secretary of AIKS, called the prevalence of the menace of untouchability a disgrace to the state, particularly in view of so-called rational thinkers ruling the state for the past 37 years. He then referred to the 157 struggles conducted by the CPI(M) against untouchability in Tamilnadu during the past seven years and added that the Party could emerge victorious in those struggles. “People used to call the CPI(M) as “untouchables’ party in East Thanjavur region – a matter to be proud of,” said Varadarajan. He noted with pride that the Party now had 30 per cent dalits as its members. He moved a resolution demanding the state government to distribute 50 lakh acres of wasteland to the landless poor peasants.

Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, was the chief speaker at the conference. In his address he remarked, “Without creating consciousness and a sense of revolt against the curse of untouchability, it is not possible to achieve social change and social revolution”. He noted that it was unfortunate that in the land of poet Bharathi and great social reformer Periar, untouchability still continued.

Yechury said that in India the class division was superimposed on the caste structure and both, while being interdependent, were helping each other. Therefore, the struggles against economic exploitation must be accompanied with the struggles to liberate people from social oppression, he stressed. Noting the growing consciousness among the dalits against the atrocities perpetuated on them, Yechury however cautioned against the caste leaders attempts to confine this consciousness within the folds of the caste system. He wanted the Party to further integrate the struggles for liberation of the oppressed people with the struggles against economic exploitation. Recalling the struggles conducted by the Party in Kerala, West Bengal and Telangana, Yechury said fighting for the rights of dalits was not something new to the Party.

The CPI(M), he said, would not remain a mute spectator to the atrocities on the downtrodden and wanted the youth to emulate stalwarts like E M S Namboodiripad and A K Gopalan who made great efforts for the Dalit struggle for emancipation and liberation. The present generation should not bear the double-tumbler system and the non-entry of Dalits into temples among other atrocities, he appealed and called for an integration of social movements as it could change the society and also stop economic exploitation.

Yechury, amidst applause from the audience, said that CPI(M) is the only Party in India which regularly fielded dalit candidates in general constituencies – the only exception being the case of Sushil Kumar Shinde of Congress in Maharashtra, who too won from a general constituency. He asked the people to ponder why untouchability persisted even now, in spite of the earlier efforts of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jothiba Phule, B R Ambedkar and Periar. He emphasised the need for the younger generation to carry forward the struggle for the real emancipation of dalits from caste oppression.

“An intellectual battle is carried on by the upper caste intellectuals to distort and black out the historical contribution made by the working class to the cultural and literary development of the human society. We have to demolish the so-called artificial intellectual superiority that the Varnasrama Dharma wants to impose and a struggle on the intellectual front is to be carried on to establish equality of humans”, said Yechury.

On the current situation, Yechury said that the CPI(M) would be pro-reforms if the reforms are pro-people and anti-reforms if the reforms are anti-people. He said the CPI(M) would support the present UPA regime as long as it implemented the Common Minimum Programme. He called upon the UPA government to expedite the process of extending the reservation policy to the private sector. In conclusion, Yechury exhorted the people to rise like tigers to fight against system of untouchability and build up mass struggles.

D Lakshmanan, P Sampath, K Balakrishnan and M N S Venkatraman, members of the CPI(M) state secretariat and K Balabharathi, CPI(M) legislator moved various resolutions on dalit rights and welfare. Earlier, R Jothiram, CPI(M) district secretary, Madurai urban, welcomed the gathering and V Sundaram, CPI(M) district secretary, Madurai rural, highlighted the objects of the conference.


Boomikku Porukkathu
, a collection of dalit stories, Marxists in the War against Untouchability, a book by P Sampath and a Telugu novel written by Kalyan Rao against untouchability (translated into Tamil by Ethirajulu) were released during the conference. Pudukkottai Boopalam and Kalaivanar teams performed cultural programmes. CPI(M) Lok Sabha member from Madurai, P Mohan, N Nanmaran MLA, and R Krishnan, former MLA also spoke. A Lazar, CPI(M) state committee member, proposed a vote of thanks.

Source: People's Democracy, October 31, 2004

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