‘Time to consolidate dalit voices to protect minorities, oppressed’
As VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan readies for his second term in the Lok Sabha, he wants to bring together all dalit leaders across the country against the BJP. In an interview with TOI, he says the second term of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister would be more dangerous for dalits than the previous one and that the VCK is keen on staying in the DMK front for the local body polls.
Q: What are your plans for the new Parliament session?
I will have to face huge challenges in Parliament. Given the brutal majority the BJP government enjoys, it will force its decisions on the country. Our fear is that the Constitution is in danger. The RSS and other Sangh Parivar outfits would get emboldened too. There are lots of issues like their Hindu Rashtra agenda, Ram temple demand, notion of one nation one culture, ghar wapsi, ban on cow slaughter and love jihad. There are enough reasons for dalits to feel intimidated. My job is to protect the interests of the minorities and oppressed sections across the country and safeguard the Constitution and democracy.
Q: Have your priorities changed between your last stint as MP and now?
The previous experience will help. I had participated in significant debates but could not raise many questions and could not participate in committee meetings. I was an ally of the UPA and had to stand by the government. Today, the VCK has an opportunity to sit in opposition. We will act freely. In the light of the Centre’s interference in the education sector, we will demand that education be brought fully under the state list. I am looking forward to participating in all the debates.
Q: Given your slender margin of victory, do you think you should have contested on the DMK symbol?
I had a detailed discussion with DMK chief M K Stalin on this. Not only he, many leaders warned me against the ‘experiment’ of contesting on an independent symbol. I felt that I should take my own decision. With the support of allies, I was confident of victory. The casteist and fundamental groups tried doing everything to defeat me. Their target was Thirumavalavan and not the symbol. Had we contested both the seats (Chidambaram and Villupuram) on independent symbols and won, the VCK would have got a political recognition.
Q: Dalit support to the BJP seems to be growing in the country. In UP, the NDA won 15 of the 17 reserved constituencies against popular perception that the Mahagathbandhan would win. What do you feel?
The narrative of the BJP and the RSS is Hindus vs non-Hindus. Psychologically, dalits think they are Hindus and they support the BJP. Majority of Hindu dalits in north India believe the BJP is their party and the party exploits this. The BJP and the RSS have not done anything to eradicate untouchability or end caste atrocities. Dalits are caught in a web of illusion.
Q: Why have dalits failed to consolidate?
Several dalit outfits think they can benefit by joining hands with the BJP as the party is in power. More than the minorities, dalits should oppose the BJP because the party is pushing the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. Dalits have still not understood the BJP’s game plan.
Q: Between northern and southern states, is there a difference in the way dalits are treated?
Discrimination is same everywhere. Dalits are made to eat human shit, tied and beaten up. Huts have been set on fire in Tamil Nadu, which is among the top five states known for atrocities against dalits. In many instances, cases are not registered.
Ponparappai violence was not an electoral violence. PMK leader S Ramadoss’s model of social engineering is consolidation of non-dalits against dalits. He takes up sensitive issues like love and inter-caste marriages to whip up passion against dalits. His model was defeated this time. People will continue to ignore him.
Q: But didn’t vanniyars stand by the PMK, going by the results?
Vanniyars are a deceived lot. The PMK did not support the families of those who died in the fight for reservation in the 1980s.
Former chief minister M Karunanidhi created the most backward class quota and supported them. Ramadoss only stirs up antidalit sentiments and instigates vanniyars to indulge in violence. None of the founding members of the PMK are with him anymore.
Q: Why aren’t dalits united?
The VCK stands for unity of democratic forces. Those who have faith in democracy should join hands. They could be the Left, dalits, women and minorities. The second term of Modi will be more dangerous for dalits. The activities of the Sangh Parivar will take a turn for the worse. Even before the oath-taking ceremony, a Muslim was assaulted and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
There could be more violence against dalits and minorities. Political power should not be the immediate objective of dalit outfits. All dalit outfits and leaders including Ram Vilas Paswan and Ramdas Athawale should take an anti-BJP stand and join hands with communists and other democratic forces to safeguard democracy.
Q: Many believe the VCK and communists won because of the DMK. Your comment?
The DMK led the Secular Democratic Alliance in Tamil Nadu. It provided a platform on which we all came together and emerged victorious.
Q: Will the alliance stay for the local body polls?
Certainly, we want to stay united and continue our journey together.