‘First en­emy’ and then friend: Ra­ma­doss

FrontLine - - COVER STORY -

LOVE and dis­agree­ment marked my friend­ship with Kalaig­nar. When he re­gained power af­ter 13 years in 1989, he had to solve the burn­ing is­sue of reser­va­tion. De­spite my fight for al­most 10 years, I did not get the so­cial jus­tice I wished. I warned the State gov­ern­ment that the fight would be in­ten­si­fied from March if the de­mand for reser­va­tion was not ful­filled by Fe­bru­ary 1989.

In Fe­bru­ary, Kalaig­nar spoke to me through the then Lo­cal Body Min­is­ter Veer­a­pandi S. Aru­mugam. Then the meet­ing took place at his Oliver Road res­i­dence. A few weeks prior to it, at a pub­lic meet­ing, I had called Kalaig­nar my first en­emy be­cause he had failed in de­liv­er­ing so­cial jus­tice. Af­ter the end of the meet­ing with him, he re­called my words and said: “You called me your first en­emy, but I am your friend.” To which I replied, “[Be] not only my friend…, do good for Van­ni­yars and make the en­tire Van­ni­yar com­mu­nity your friend.” He en­joyed it.

I told him to in­clude Van­ni­yars and 10 other castes that had been clubbed un­der the Back­ward Class cat­e­gory as a sep­a­rate group. He replied in a light­hearted vein, “You are re­fus­ing to in­clude our Isai Vel­lalar so­ci­ety in your reser­va­tion group.” The friend­ship that be­gan then con­tin­ued un­til his last breath.

We or­gan­ised a con­fer­ence on so­cial jus­tice at Villupu­ram in 1996. We in­vited him for it and hon­oured him with a yel­low shawl. He felt happy and kept it on un­til the end. He never hes­i­tated to im­ple­ment any is­sue re­lat­ing to so­cial jus­tice. When I told him that a so­cially con­scious of­fi­cer like Kasi Viswanathan

ment of ar­chakars ir­re­spec­tive of the caste iden­tity. When Kalaig­nar be­came Chief Min­is­ter again in 2006, an en­act­ment was brought en­abling the ap­point­ment of ar­chakars duly trained in the vedas and the aga­mas. Ar­chakars from dif­fer­ent castes, in­clud­ing Brah­mins, duly trained in gov­ern­ment-run Ar­chakars Train­ing Cen­tres were about to be ap­pointed. Again, the Act was chal­lenged by the Madu­rai Meenakshi tem­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Priests. When the case was pend­ing, the Supreme Court gave a di­rec­tion to the State gov­ern­ment not to ap­point the trained ar­chakars. Mean­while, J. Jay­alalitha be­came Chief Min­is­ter in 2011. In De­cem­ber 2015, the Supreme Court gave a ver­dict which did not pro­hibit the ap­point­ment of the duly trained ar­chakars. But the State gov­ern­ment did not act on it. In April 2016, the DK launched an ag­i­ta­tion pick­et­ing the HR&CE of­fices in Chennai and other dis­trictss. Nearly 1,000 should be ap­pointed the head of the Tamil Nadu Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, he obliged.

When a few lead­ers in Delhi at­tempted to di­lute the 27 per cent reser­va­tion for Back­ward Class stu­dents in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, DMK lead­ers who at­tended the meet­ing re­mained pas­sive. It irked me. I fought alone for it in the meet­ing.

I called Kalaig­nar us­ing Dayanidhi Maran’s phone to ex­press my anger and dis­sat­is­fac­tion. He paci­fied me and spoke to the Prime Min­is­ter and other lead­ers seek­ing their sup­port. He also told them that Ra­ma­doss was right in his de­mand. The is­sue was solved later in the night. Then he called me over phone and asked me whether I was sat­is­fied. I said, “Yes.” The other de­ci­sion he took on my re­quest was the can­cel­la­tion of en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions for ad­mis­sion to med­i­cal and en­gi­neer­ing cour­ses. He en­acted a law in 2006. Sim­i­larly, I met him on De­cem­ber 22, 2008, along with lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous caste groups with the de­mand that pro­hi­bi­tion be en­forced in the State. He promised to do it in stages. He said that no new shops would be opened and also ad­vanced the clo­sure of the shops by an hour. It was also on my plea that he dropped the scheme to set up a satel­lite town near Chennai.

Even at times of no elec­toral un­der­stand­ing be­tween the DMK and the Pat­tali Makkal Katchi (PMK), our healthy friend­ship con­tin­ued with­out any pol­i­tics. black-shirt cadre were ar­rested along with cadre from like-minded or­gan­i­sa­tions. It was only in Fe­bru­ary 2018 that a non-brah­min ar­chakar, duly trained at the gov­ern­ment cen­tre, was ap­pointed at the Ayyap­pan Tem­ple, Tal­laku­lam, Madu­rai by the HR&CE Depart­ment.

The Dra­vid­ian move­ment is ide­o­log­i­cally com­mit­ted to equal­ity and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties in the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum for all castes. The move­ment for this started by Peri­yar in 1969 achieved its goal when Kalaig­nar passed two ex­clu­sive en­act­ments in 1971 and 2006. The pro­vi­sions of the Act be­came a re­al­ity in Fe­bru­ary 2018. The mes­sage of the first ap­point­ment of a non-brah­min as ar­chakar was con­veyed to Kalaig­nar while he was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal. Kalaig­nar’s con­tri­bu­tion in this achieve­ment is in­deli­ble in the his­tory of the strug­gle for equal­ity and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties to all castes in all spheres, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of ar­chakars in tem­ples.

S. RA­MA­DOSS in 2011. with Karunanidhi,

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