Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes
The is the transcript of the speech delivered by Pa Ranjith in Thenmalaiyaandi foothills, where Arundhathiyars are protesting against the Santhairur wall.The video was recorded by Neethemaan, Aathi Thamizhar Katchi.
“Why does this keep happening? We don’t know if it keeps happening openly right in front of us, but they have created this between us. They have come to the point where they don’t want to annihilate caste. From not wanting us to annihilate caste, they have come to the point of asking us to speak proudly about caste! They say, “If you are a Paraiyar, you speak proudly about it! You speak that your/this caste is great.” “You speak with pride about your caste. This is your struggle and that is everything to you.” This is where they have brought us to. But do we need this? This is what we are speaking at this place. Caste pride is not necessary at all. Caste wall pride is not necessary at all. Throw it and burn it away.
We are all one. That is the point on which we all have to come together. That is the point from which we have to start, is what I wish for. This is not a place to speak in support of any caste. Your struggle is a very justified one. You are being discriminated against. Like what that amma has said and she was crying. That is definitely the truth. How else can she continue crying like that? For how long will they keep denying that this is not true? That is not possible at all. There is caste discrimination in even small small things and experiences, and we can understand that. While coming and going, while walking to school when I was a kid, if a Reddiyar (discriminating caste) is coming, I am getting down and standing no? That is definitely caste discrimination! And that discrimination, even to this day it is in my mind, no? Even to this day, it hasn’t left my mind and gone! I have come this far, have studied so much, made many movies, but still, I can understand caste discrimination. Besides my school, when I was studying, while giving me water, instead of giving me the tumbler to hold in my hand, they poured it from above, no? So that I don’t touch it and just get the water! I can understand that that is caste discrimination. So then this is also most definitely a big form of caste discrimination.
For these many days, you have been sitting here and fighting! What have we been fighting for? This society/community has to understand! The possibility of not understanding is higher because nobody wants to understand the true character of caste. They all keep saying, “You have studied, you have arrived, you have come to this position, but why do you keep talking about caste?” “We all have forgotten caste. It is you who keeps speaking about caste.” This is how they accuse us. But that is not how it is. This amma (mother) has crossed 98 years and still has to speak about experiencing caste discrimination, so when will this society understand.
This society, especially as we are waiting for the dominant caste feeling communities to understand caste, but because they aren’t willing to, the caste feeling among the oppressed castes has been increasing these days. Everyone started showing their caste bigotry, caste history, like, “I belong to this caste, I fought here, this is my (caste) history, I am the ruler of this place.” Speaking about ruling pride, taking pride in a history. This is what dalits have been taking up and going. This is a very bad thing to do is what I think. Why do you need all that? How many of us here are educated, at this place? Many of us have gone to school, but why haven’t the children gone to school? Educational knowledge is very much needed. Why should we miss it? In Arundhathiyar community, education is at a very low level. We are unable to fill the existing vacant positions because we aren’t educated. Only if we are educated, we can speak for ourselves. Now comrade Jakkaiyan, because he is educated, he is able to speak for us. That level of education and self-confidence, we have to give our children.
That thought in our mind that we are from oppressed caste, it is like a termite. It will not leave us at all. Till the end, till we die, it will keep bothering us by saying, “You are from oppressed caste, you are from oppressed caste.” And really, our children, the freedom with which they study while at home, that freedom is not at all there when they move away to study. If the child is going to study 12th, they go out to study and are going to meet other children. And they are afraid to state their caste. They are afraid of the place they are coming from. More disgusting than this is lives taken away by caste. These many problems are there. Then all these problems, if we are not able to solve these smaller problems within ourselves, if others are unable to understand our problems, it is very worrisome. Will these political parties really unite us? Or will these politicians here unite us together? They really will not unite us. The vote is very important here. If you are voting, take ten homes. Leave all other castes. If there are ten homes of Arundhathiyars, how much division is within those ten homes? Why aren’t we united? Among those 10 homes, if some political party person, if someone asks us to vote for comrade Jakkaiyan, we will not vote for him at all. Speaking about this caste problem, if he is contesting, we will not vote for him at all. There is no unity, rationality, there is nothing. This caste practice, throw it away from your head.The time and place have come to throw away caste.
We have to get into various professions and move forward, we have to send our children. Education is very important for children. We have to move towards that. Only if we move that way, we can break all this. This work to break caste now, definitely your children will imbibe your struggle against caste discrimination. At the same time, we have to think that why we are here, our current status, why are we suppressed? We have to give them these thoughts. And beyond that, we have to speak about how to unite us all. Without believing in political parties and government, whatever problems are amongst us, I believe that we can sit together and solve them. This is what I have first thought. When this problem has started, I thought we can come and break it down. But when I saw later, something else is happening here. It was very worrisome. I have been speaking to different people every day, to find out why it is this way. Why are you not breaking down the wall? What is the problem in breaking it? There can be caste in it, there can be untouchability, and as some say it might not be untouchability, but when this wall is dividing two communities, it is not necessary at all, break it down! That is my decision.
Why should it divide two communities? If it is there to divide, then we don’t need it at all, no? Now that it is not needed, the government, the law has given a judgment in your favour to break the wall. We have to think about this. And furthermore, we have to think about what else we have to fight for if we are going to be divided if divisions are necessary within the oppressed communities? Why this hierarchy of higher and lower? When are we going to unite together? Only if you two unite together, we can overcome these divisions. If two communities keep dividing, then that’s it. I am not telling this to just the oppressed communities. I am saying this to every community. But that is not how it is here. Every street is a different caste here! It is scary to look at it. Some streets are named after a caste here. Coming from a community with so many divisions, coming from an oppressed community, our future, the future of our children, that untouchability within us, how we are going to change this, we will work towards that.
We will definitely speak again at another meeting for justice. We will decide as a community on how to solve this. And at the same time, yours is a very important struggle. You have brought it this far. It is now known worldwide, and that itself is a big victory. I think it will be better if you change the method of this struggle a bitdha because I am scared. Seriously, if something changes, I am afraid that the already divided community will get further divided. I am requesting you with that fear. Please change the method of your struggle, go back to your homes, but continue your struggle, yours is a justified struggle and your demands will be definitely realised. That is the truth. Because when there is justice, we will definitely win. Because here, nobody can say that they haven’t seen untouchability. I know very well personally, how here between every caste there is discrimination, I can understand, and I have personally experienced it. So nobody here can lie that Paraiyars don’t discriminate against Arundhathiyars. There is truth in that.”