Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why there is hardly any communal violence in Tamilnadu

The attack on Ram Janma Boomi / Babri Masjid at Ayodhya ought to be condemned. If it is the work of Pakistan based terrorists, India should demand that they be handed over to India, though this will not happen.

When I first heard the news, I called up my Bombay office and alerted my staff to be safe against any potential communal violence. So far there has been none, and I fervently hope that everybody has the common sense to not indulge in riots.

Fortunately, Tamilnadu has not had any major communal violence. During the demolition of Babri Masjid in Dec'92 I was studying in Kilakarai, a small village in coastal Tamilnadu with almost 95% Muslim population. There was palpable tension in the air, but no riots and no crowds chasing the Hindu Students. In the four years I spent in Kilakarai, I never felt any bias towards Muslims or hatred towards Hindus. From my experience in living in small towns of Tamilnadu, I can vouch that this is the case in most places. I studied for a year in Little Flower Higher Secondary School, a Christian school, in Kumbakonam. We were taught Thiruppavai and Thiruvembavai (hymns in praise of Lord Krishna)and sent to participate in competitions held in nearby Uppiliappan temple. Communal violence was hardly heard about in Tamilnadu till 1998 Coimbatore episode. Even that did not spread state wide and was contained. All this means Tamilians can be proud of themselves as a tolerant society.

But scratch the surface and you will find a different story. There is no communal violence in Tamilnadu, because most of the Hindus identify themselves based on caste and only then on religion. That is my theory anyway. There is no Hindu vote bank in Tamilnadu. There are Thevar, Vanniar, Dalit, Nadar vote banks, but no consolidated Hindu votebank. This the reason why BJP finds it hard to break into Tamilnadu. They are not able to consolidate the Hindus into a single vote bank.

Casteism has strong roots in Tamilnadu. Any Tamil who is reading this would have heard these statements, "Iyer pasangala Nambadha (never trust Brahmin Boys", "Thevarunnale aruva thaan (If you are a thevar, you will be violent)", "Naadaru ennaikkum avanga aalungalukku thaan help pannuvaru (Nadars will help their caste men only)" and such. The biggest riots in Tamilnadu have been casteist in nature be it the Mudukulathoor riots of 1957, or the Thevar-Dalit clashes during 1990s. In a labor struggle gone awry, 44 women and children of Dalit community were burnt alive in the clashes in Kilavenmani in 1960s, but hardly anybody remembers this incident as it is never mentioned or remembered in Main Stream Media.

Even in the supposedly enlightened environs of Engineering Colleges, I have felt these divisions. Similarly I have heard the GM of my previous company, berate Ambedkar as a mere translator of British Constitution and not one who wrote the Indian Constitution (of course, after confirming that I belong to a forward caste).

So this is my theory, there is hardly any communal violence in Tamilnadu, because we are still fighting on casteist lines.


ada-paavi!!!! said...

yes true that tamilnadu doesnt have any communal violance due to castist differences.
this friend of mine worked in a call center, during the initial days of is training, he said that the brahmins would stick together, this highlights the deeprooted divisions in TN,
but tamilians r indifferent towards religion, they just go on with their business

Chenthil said...

Vatsan, this is not restricted to one particular communtiy. In Tamilnadu, you will find caste based alignments in all spheres of life, by all castes

ammani said...

Hey Chenthil
Shaken but fine. Thanks for your query.

ada-paavi!!!! said...

yes chenthil, but my experience has been limited to that community

shaun said...

Have there been any caste riots in TN?

Chenthil said...

Shivam Vij, I assume that you are not a Tamilian, otherwise you wouldn't have asked this question. We have some big riots (100+ people killed) every ten years or so.

Ravages/CC said...

What is weireder in Tamil Nadu is most castes have sub divisions - The thevars are split in three. The goundars into 3-4. Which means, you will see one set of thevars fighting the other and all other combinations thereof

Chenthil said...

I doubt that CCG. Thevar is the nomination given to three castes - Kallar, Maravar and Agamudaiyar- and I haven't heard about them fighiting with each other. Of course if any body is bored in Tamilnadu, they enter into a family feud with others. In Kamudi area, somebody was killed and seven people were jailed for that. When they came out on bail, the killed man's relatives hacked all those arrested (7 if I am correct) in the bus. So the cycle continues.

Ganesh said...


myself and thennavan discussing just this.
Its shame even in 21st century
we are divided.
Sad indeed. worst part, people who leave hindu religon also carries this caste thing there also.

jack said...

you are right to a certain extent.I think it is also the fact that the dravidian movement made tamilians move away from religious passions.

கடுங்கோன் பாண்டியன் said...

நாங்களா சாதி வேண்டும் என்கிறோம் . சாதி இல்லாமல் இருந்த தமிழனை பிரித்து யாருன்னு மறந்துவிட்டிர்களா? 1700 இல் என்ன நடந்தது என்று தெரியாதா?

Anonymous said...

Soon it will happen,tamil can think of themselves as tamil and not hindus still u r a bloody 'kaafir' i hear they (muslims) made few villages out of bound for non muslims cutting of rameshwaram.

surya said...

Yes you are 100 percent right.