Pa Ranjith: A Sane Voice Of Dalits Or A Slave Of Arivalayam?
On 28 May 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building and installed the historic Sengol, while Tamil Hindu Aadhenams sang Thevaaram songs inside the parliament.
This is the same Sengol which was presented to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam moments before Independence as a mark of transfer of power from British to Indians.
History repeated itself again as special poojas were performed by priests and Aadheenams and an all faith prayer was also held before the Sengol was installed near the Speaker’s chair.
PM Modi, before receiving the Sengol from Aadhenams, prostrated before it as a mark of respect reflecting the Indian culture and tradition.
However, this celebration of India’s civilizational ethos on such a momentous occasion has caused uneasiness amongst the usual suspects comprising of leftist and Dravidian Stockists.
While the DMK voted against Draupadi Murmu in the Presidential elections, the party and its outer onion layers have shed crocodile tears saying that the Modi government has insulted the President by not inviting her for the new parliament inauguration.
Film director Pa Ranjith too strongly condemned the Modi government for not inviting President Draupadi Murmu for inauguration of the new Parliament building.
In his tweet, director Pa Ranjith said, “Mockery of Democracy. New Delhi: In modern, developed and glorious India the BJP promises to establish in the 75th year of Indian Independence – #AzadiKiAmritMahostav, the first Adivasi president of India- Honourable Madam Draupadi Murmu, not invited to grand inauguration of #CentralVista – the #NewParliament, to be held on 28th May.”
Ranjith attempted to draw a parallel between the exclusion of President Draupadi Marmu from the event and an incident in Tamil Nadu in which Dalits were denied entry into a temple by a caste Hindus, claiming that both the first citizen and the common people are oppressed in the country.
Ranjith said, “Villupuram, Tamil Nadu: Caste-Hindu groups protest against the entry of Dalits into Temple of Hindu Deity – Draupadi; alongside rampantly increasing caste atrocities in Tamil Nadu and across India. The plight of the nations first citizen and its common people remains same the caste-ridden Indian society, irrespective of the political parties; for all of them uphold the Hindu social order through rites, rituals and customs.”
He further added, “Several parties and governments have come and gone, irrespective of their ideologies and promises, all of them have strived to protect ritual purity, and continue to give rise to new forms of #untouchability, #castediscrimination and ill-practices in the name of caste, instead of eradicating the existing forms. Strong condemnations against the BJP for its continued unconstitutional and undemocratic actions and governance.”
However, Pa Ranjith’s track record of speaking up for the oppressed in society must be questioned because he refuses to comment on issues where the ruling DMK government is in a disadvantageous position. Several times in the past, after the DMK government took power in the state, he tried to be as soft as possible in his condemnation of the ruling DMK or preferred to remain silent.
His criticism of the BJP government for not inviting President Draupadi Marmu comes at a time when there have been a record number of manhole deaths in the case in a month in Tamil Nadu. However, Pa Ranjith has never spoken out about the manhole death in the state or criticised the DMK government, which is to blame. Tamil Nadu recorded eight manhole deaths in May 2023, with one at Ranipettai, three at Cuddalore, and two each at Puzhal and Meenchur. It should be noted that all of these places have long been considered DMK strongholds.
Though eight people died while entering manholes in the last month, the issue did not make headlines in Tamil Nadu, and the self-proclaimed Ambedkarist Pa Ranjith did not open his mouth because the DMK is in power.
After receiving criticism for his silence, Pa Ranjith spoke out about the manhole death in the state, but he avoided naming DMK in his tweet. Pa Ranjith, who has previously criticised Modi and the BJP by naming them, has chosen not to name the DMK in his tweet.
In his tweet, Pa Ranjith said, “Continuing Manhole deaths! We have sacrificed nine lives in Tamil Nadu in the last three weeks alone! We strongly condemn the Tamil Nadu people and government for continuing to perpetrate this terrible social calamity!!! Let us not consider manhole death to be a problem of a specific community, but rather a problem of the entire human society. We should make laws more stringent, increase public awareness, and attempt to prevent it immediately! Tamil Nadu’s government must immediately put an end to manhole deaths.”
It should be noted that no state in India has recorded 8 manhole deaths in a month. According to data from the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), Tamil Nadu has had 218 deaths in the last 29 years, far more than second Gujarat, which has had 153 deaths in the same time period.
Here is the number of sewer deaths in each state as per National Commission for Safai Karamcharis data (from 1993 to 28.02.2022):
Tamil Nadu – 218
Delhi – 97
Maharashtra – 39
Rajasthan – 38
Haryana – 84
Andhra Pradesh – 22
Punjab – 43
West Bengal – 23
Goa – 6
Uttarakhand – 8
Madhya Pradesh – 16
Telangana – 17
Uttar Pradesh – 107
Bihar – 2
Odisha – 2
Puducherry – 9
Karnataka – 86
Kerala – 13
Chandigarh – 3
Tripura – 2
Chhattisgarh – 1
Total – 989
According to a guidelines issued by the Union Government, state governments should form a committee of 14 official members and 11 non-official members to meet at least four times a year to discuss issues affecting sanitary workers. The committee will present its findings to the respective state Chief Ministers. However, the Tamil Nadu government’s committee has not convened this meeting even once in the last two years.
A few days ago, the DMK government appointed new member to this committee. However, there have been allegations that the members appointed by the DMK government are party members and that the union government’s recommendation to appoint those with experience in this field was ignored.
The committee has recently recommended that the state’s sanitation work be outsourced. The DMK government’s decision will have an impact on the poor, particularly those from the scheduled castes who rely on this job.
Though the Manual Scavenging Act 2013 requires vigilance agencies to be present at meetings convened by the state to discuss manual scavenging-related issues, it was alleged that the meeting convened by the DMK government a few days ago did not have a vigilance agency.
It is worth noting that almost all major Indian states have a commission for manual scavengers at the state level, whereas Tamil Nadu has only a toothless welfare board for manual scavengers.
The lack of these facilities in the state for the welfare of manual scavengers has resulted in an increase in manhole deaths. Self-proclaimed activists like Pa Ranjith, who should have been speaking out about the problems faced by manual scavengers, chose to remain silent but were very vocal during the inauguration of the new parliament building, which occurred at the same time.
Another recent incident exposes the hypocrite that Pa Ranjith is.
India’s Olympic medallist wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia along with Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat have been protesting against the Wrestler Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Singh, who is also a BJP MP, demanding his arrest since April 23 over charges of sexual harassment.
Following a month long protest, they tried to march towards the new Parliament building from their protest site on the day of the inauguration when they were stopped and detained by Delhi Police personnel.
Pa Ranjith who is often hailed for bringing out feminist views in the films had voiced against the detaining of the protestors.
However, he has not called for action against lyricist Vairamuthu, who is close to the DMK and has been accused of sexual harassment by 19 women.
The director has remained zipped about the hooch tragedy in Tamil Nadu that caused 23 deaths, in which the perpetrators have direct links to the DMK.
While the media has hyped him up as an ‘intellectual’ and a voice of the oppressed, the man seems to be nothing more than a stooge of the DMK who barks after getting his crumbs from Arivalayam.
(Kaathavaraayan is a political writer and columnist.)
Courtesy : The Commune
Note: This news piece was originally published in thecommune.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights