August 30, 2015
A prominent Dalit organization has threatened to hold district-wide protests on Monday if the state government does not revoke its ban on two books about the Scheduled Castes written by Dalit writers. Accusing the government of “clamping down on the freedom of expression for political reasons,” Aadhi Tamizhar Peravai wanted the ban lifted on ‘Madurai Veeranin Unmai Varalaru’ (The Real History of Madurai Veeran), and ‘Venthar Kulathin Iruppidam Ethu?’ (What is the place of the Venthar Community?), written by E. Senthil Mallar and Kuzhanthai Royappan respectively.
ER Adhiyaman, district secretary, Aadhi Tamizhar Peravai, said it was with “ulterior motives” that the government had banned the Madurai Veeran book as it was published in 2013 and all the 2000 copies that were published by the Peravai had sold out. The government had said that the books caused “communal disharmony and provoked enmity” between castes. “No such thing has happened,” said Athiyaman.
At a public meeting, he said that the Peravai had made three demands. “We asked for the reservations to be implemented properly. We wanted the government to inaugurate a memorial hall for Ondiveeran, a Dalit hero. And, we wanted the government to pay compensation of Rs.10 lakhs per head to rehabilitate the manual scavengers according to the Justice Sadasivam’s judgment in the Supreme Court,” he said.
The memorial for Ondiveeran was built during the DMK rule. “We are with the DMK right now. We are part of the DMK-led alliance. It has been four years since AIADMK came to power. Even now the memorial remains unopened,” he said.
He said that the party’s demands, made in presence on stage of Congress leader EVKS Elangovan and DMK leader MK Stalin, had irked the AIADMK government which retaliated by banning the books. The Aadhi Tamizhar Peravai claimed that the state government was cracking down on new-age Dalit literature, with the upcoming elections in mind.
“It is a move made to satisfy the backward classes,” “The order ban has not reached me. If it does, I will approach the court for justice. Don’t I have right to freedom of expression?” asked Kuzhandai Rayappan, author of one of the banned books. He said Madurai Veeran was a Kshatriya who dared to fall in love with and marry a Naidu girl. “Upper castes are worrying about the history of a lower caste boy marrying a upper class girl. This is the real motive behind the ban. I condemn it strongly,” he said.
The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has also come out strongly against the ban. “If portions of the book were found offensive, they could have been removed. But a wholesale ban in unwelcome,” said S Balamurugan, state secretary of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, PUCL.