‘First enemy’ and then friend: Ramadoss
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,