ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fighting Caste Fighting Patriarchy

Ilavarasan's death warns us that one cannot be fought without attacking the other.

Caste prejudice and caste as a relationship, as B R Ambedkar pointedly asserted, rest upon endogamous marriages. Inter-caste marriages have always been resented by casteists all over India – parents, caste bodies and political parties. The recent death of Ilavarasan, a young dalit man in Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri district, highlights once again the vice-like grip of caste prejudice.

While the immediate circumstances leading to Ilavarasan’s death are still under investigation, the fact remains that its root cause was the immense pressure on him and his wife Divya by the leaders of the Vanniyar community to which Divya belonged. Ilavarasan and Divya got married last year against the wishes of her parents, a decision which led her father, Nagarajan, to commit suicide. In itself this is doubly tragic – a death forced by a feeling of insult and humiliation that flowed from some extremely regressive ideas. The role of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which has its mass base among the Vanniyars, is particularly dubious in this tragic episode. The PMK actively fanned the violence which erupted in the aftermath of this marriage and its activists led the attack on dalit homes in Naickenkottai village of Dharmapuri district in November 2012 after the death of Divya’s father. Similar attacks were reported on a dalit colony in Marakkanam in Villupuram district in April this year.

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