Ramadoss arrest is political repression
by Bharathi on 20 May 2013 12 Comments

The recent arrest of the Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) president, Dr S Ramadoss, and the brutal crackdown on its workers seems to be an act of political repression. Top functionaries of the party were arrested under the National Security Act and Goondas Act, which is simply unprecedented.


The PMK had recently organised a mega conclave of its Vanniyar base at Mahabalipuram on Chitra Pournami (April 25). Some of the cadres coming to attend the conclave were attacked at a place called Marakkanam, as a result of which two PMK workers died.


Dr Ramadoss publicly accused the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol. Thirumavalavan for organising the violence against the Vanniyar supporters of the PMK and demanded a CBI inquiry. But the Tamil Nadu Government accused the PMK of instigating the riots, and began arresting many of its party members. Observers felt this was to appease / woo the formidable votebank with the VCK.


To protest against the regime’s crackdown on its cadres and press for its demand for a CBI enquiry into the deaths of two of its party members, PMK decided on a public protest at Viluppuram district on April 30. The AIADMK government did not allow the protest and instead arrested Dr Ramadoss along with party workers. This was the beginning of a series of crackdowns on the PMK. Several cases were filed against Dr Ramadoss to curb his chances of getting bail.


Observers believe the crackdowns are part of a larger game plan to ban the PMK and keep it from contesting the next Lok Sabha elections, as PMK had previously announced it would not align with any regional or national parties and would contest the polls alone. There are many reasons for this brutal crackdown on PMK. 


One is that the PMK has frequently switched alliances and enjoyed power at the centre, so in the last Assembly elections all political parties decided to teach it a lesson. Hence, though it was part of the DMK coalition, the latter colluded with ADMK to ensure that PMK was drubbed in all seats it contested. As a result, PMK was almost wiped out in the last Assembly elections. This compelled it to refashion its electoral strategy; it began to focus on its core votebank – the Vanniyar community. The party also categorically stated it would not align with any regional or national parties and would go it alone in the next Parliamentary elections.


Last year, it launched a high pitched slogan, “Vanniyar should rule Tamil Nadu” and “Vanniyars were the ruling class”, and organised a mega conclave on the auspicious occasion of Chitra Pournami. By all accounts this was a highly successful event, with the party claiming an attendance of over 10 lakh. Buoyed by that success, PMK organised a bigger event on Chitra Pournami this year, where more than 25 lakh people attended. This jolted almost all political parties.


The Vanniyars claim they are Kshatriyas belonging to Agni Kulam, and hail the vanniya puranam as the legitimate source for their claim. At the Vanniyar conclave, they enacted the story of vanniya puranam, where the veera Rudra vanniya maharaja kills the asura Vatapi to save the Devas. All their ideological themes are based on Hindu traditions and Hindu puranas. The choice of Chitra Pournami for their conclave is also based on the Hindu calendar system.


Vanniyars are Vaishnavas, and when M Karunanidhi abused Sri Rama some years ago, the Vanniyar Sangam issued a strong protest. The PMK played a vital role in demolishing the myths of Dravidian Identity and politics by organising a series of meetings under the title “Dravida Mayai”. 


All these were political blows to the Dravidar Kalagam and Communists who had hitherto dominated the Tamil Nadu intellectual space with pretentious claims to “Pahutharivu” (rationalism). Hitherto, no political leader dared speak of Hindu traditions publicly for fear of intellectual ostracism. The PMK broke this silence and shattered the vicious hold of Dravidian atheism by asserting the Hindu puranic story of Vanniya Puranam as their Kula Puranam.


Unlike other parties, the PMK consolidated the Vanniyar votebank on the basis of jati identity and hence has no compulsion to woo votebanks. This upset many vested interests who manipulate politics through power brokering and shifting of vote base, but could not do so with the PMK. This author feels this is one of the strengths and positive aspects of caste-based parties – they don’t need to indulge in ‘caste conflict’ politics to win votes.


The past five years have seen an unsettling phenomenon of ‘love jihad’ affecting almost all communities in the State. There is a widespread perception that certain groups backed by communists, missionaries and some political parties are deliberately targetting innocent teenage girls from wealthy upper caste families in order to extract hefty sums of money from the girl’s parents.


This is a very different phenomenon from young adults meeting and falling in love and getting married. In the ‘love jihad’ cases, where marriage does take place, the divorce rate is unnaturally steep.


The public found that when parents complained to the police, the PCR Act was invoked to intimidate them. Often, the police would be unable to help as the girl would be 18 years old and hence a major legally. But if the police officer belonged to the boy’s community, the girl’s parents tended to face all sorts of hostilities. Where helpless parents allowed the marriage to take place, hoping for the best, it was found that soon after the marriage, the boy would file a legal case demanding a share in the property of the girl’s father! 


Some political formations added fuel to the fire by justifying Love-Jihads as form of social justice and a tool to eradicate jati. But most political parties turned a blind eye towards this issue, as too flammable. One major party however, allegedly silently fueled this unrest further by appointing officers loyal to a pro-Love-Jihad party in northern Tamil Nadu. This rendered most communities helpless and unable to protect their girls from this menace. 


Dr. Ramadoss publicly opposed these love jihads, and even accused the VCK of training party youths to lure wealthy upper caste girls. The Vanniyars were one of the affected communities where over 2000 teenage girls were affected by ‘love jihad’. This won the PMK the support of almost all communities across the State. Dr Ramadoss successfully organised an all-community meeting to discuss the issue and this culminated in the formation of “All Community Federation” with leaders of all castes.


This was unprecedented in the history of Tamil Nadu, in fact India. Hitherto, political parties have always tried to break jatis, and pitted one jati against another for survival. The first ever caste clash in Tamil Nadu was organised by Congress party, pitting the Pallar community against the Kallars, to whom Muthuramalinga Devar of Forward Bloc belonged. After that, every other political party began to side with one or other jati to increase its votebank. The communists went a step further and extended this jati clash to an upper caste vs lower caste war.  In this poisonous political atmosphere, the PMK took a revolutionary stand in organising an all-community meeting on a positive platform of cooperation and mutual respect, recognizing the rights of every jati to follow its own traditions. 


This undermined Dravidian politics which has ruled the State for the past 60 years on the destructive platform of atheism and caste eradication. The communists are equally rattled because they had always played nasty politics pitting so-called lower castes against all upper caste communities.


While the communists and DK unleashed a high pitched propaganda of individual rights of teenage lovers, Dr. Ramadoss publicly countered that marriage is a family affair to be decided collectively by the parents of both sides. He publicly explained the difference between Organised Love Jihad and spontaneous love marriages, and narrated the plight of many families affected by love jihad.


The recent Dharmapuri incident was actually a backlash against organised love jihad. A Vanniyar girl was lured by a member of a rival political party and made to elope with him. Later, the girl’s father was asked to pay a ransom of Rs 2 lakh to get her back. He managed to pay the amount at an illegal katta-panchayat held in a police station, but still failed to get the girl back. Later, he was insulted by the police officers and committed suicide. This it what triggered a spontaneous outburst of Dharmapuri people against the VCK which was believed to be supporting this menace; as many as 80 extortion cases were known to local people.


Vested interests manipulated to make the incident appear as an attack on less privileged communities by upper castes. Though about 30 houses are affected by the spontaneous violence, it was claimed that over 300 huts were burnt. The truth is that most houses in Nayakkankottai village where the incident happened had tiled roofs and were not huts at all. Even the photograph published of a damaged house was actually a godown where scrap iron was stored. But as a result of the manipulation, the State Government shelled out an exorbitant Rs. 8 crore as compensation.


Attempts were made to blame the PMK party and the Vanniyars. But Dr Ramadoss, while denying involvement of PMK, extended his support to the affected families and exposed the role of some parties including VCK in the incident. 


Thus for the first time, a political cum intellectual opposition to anti-Hindu forces emerged in Tamil Nadu, in the form of PMK. Dr. Ramadoss’ arrest has to be seen from this context. The PMK and Dr Ramadoss have grown too big to be easily broken by the government. It is also difficult for the other parties to form an effective alternative to the PMK that can split the Vanniyar vote bank. Hence the determination of the political establishment to destroy the PMK.


The ruling party expected massive riots after the arrest of the PMK leader and party cadres, but that did not happen. Dr. Ramadoss publicly charged that the riots that happened after his arrest were orchestrated by rival parties with the active cooperation of the Police and the regime. He claimed that in some places, the people had caught cadres of a rival party rioting and handed over them to the nearby police station, but the police refused to file FIR. Makkal TV even telecast video footage of VCK cadres attacking the vans of PMK members travelling to the Vanniyar conclave.


It would seem that there is a concerted move to provoke the PMK cadres and use any resultant violence to ban the party from contesting the next Lok Sabha Elections. Indeed, the chief minister recently said that the State Government would not hesitate to ban the PMK.


Can PMK withstand this crackdown? Only time will tell.

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