In what shows how caste discrimination continues to be a big issue as far as the Hindu society and its solidarity is concerned.
As per recent reports, Tamil Puligal Katchi, a Dalit outfit has stated that over 400 Dalits from Coimbatore have converted to Islam.
M. Ilavenil, General Secretary of Tamil Puligal Katchi has said that 420 Dalits from Thondamuthur, Annur, Periyanaickenpalayam, Karumathampatti and Mettupalayam have embraced Islam at Mosques near their houses.
The group says that the conversions were triggered by a December 2 incident when a wall, called ‘untouchability wall’ collapsed in Nadur, Mettupalayam killing 17 Dalits.
Tamil Puligal chief, Nagai Thiruvalluvan said, “The State government’s failure to see the Nadur tragedy through the caste discrimination prism, recognise that casteism was at the core of the tragedy and displaying anti-Dalit bias were the reasons for the conversion.”
He added, “Why did the police show hesitation in registering a case against the owner of the property whose compound fell on three houses killing the 17 Dalits; why did the police, right from the beginning, attempt to conceal the discrimination angle; why did the government not take any action against officials who had failed to act on Nadur residents’ petition regarding the compound wall and why did the police fail to act in a fair manner.”
Meanwhile, Nilavenil, General Secretary of Tamil Puligal has claimed that while 450 Dalits have already converted, another 3,000 are ready to convert to Islam, although the number may be inflated as is being claimed by certain Hindu activists.
The incident exposes the age-old fissures within the Hindu society that primarily arise due to the issue of caste prejudice and discrimination, something that has also been responsible for lack of Hindu solidarity.
There has always been an attempt, especially at a political level to keep the Hindu society divided. The reason being that the saffronisation of Dalits is a nightmarish prospect for many who have survived for decades on the basis of social unrest and alienation of Dalits from the Hindu society.
For a long time, a division in Hindu voters and a Muslim-Dalit combination was seen as a foolproof winning formula. In Tamil Nadu, Dravidian parties have relied on caste-divides for their politics.
There has always been a conscious strategy to break away the Dalits from the Hindu community with infamous slogans such as RPI(A)’s 1962 election pitch– “Jatav-Muslim bhai bhai, Hindu kaum kaha see aayi (Jatavs and Muslims are like brothers, where did the Hindu community come from).”
However, things have been changing and changing pretty quickly at that. Dalit voters are no longer completely alienated and the manner in which the BJP has emerged as a popular political choice among the Dalits shows that a pan-India unification of Hindu Nationalist ideology is setting in. In Tamil Nadu, this sort of unity among Hindus is a threat to Dravidian politician who rely heavily on caste equations.
But while there is an ongoing process of unification at a political level, Hindu organisations must understand that caste prejudice and discrimination can once again create the larger Hindu society a divided lot. Such sharp division won’t augur well in the larger national interest too.
The present incident shows that Caste-based discrimination has still not been fully overcome. Caste prejudice and discrimination must be denounced and eradicated with great vigour.
While there are signs of Hindu society unifying at a political level, a strong sense of solidarity is also required at a purely social level, if the Hindu outfits want to preserve the integrity of the Hindu society. While the movement for such unity has strengthened in northern parts of India, it remains far behind in the south.