R. Ilangovan, The Hindu , Oct 14, 2005
Oppose "culture terrorism"
SALEM: It surprised Dalit outfits and their women groups, when a few Dalit politicians, who had been spearheading many a rights-based agitation in the State, joined hands with forces trying to "saffronise Tamil women" under the veil of culture and chastity.
Saying that the attempts to violate the rights of women will also affect the rights of Dalit women more seriously, Dalit women activists and intellectuals have called for a unifying force of like-minded groups to fight this "culture terrorism" on women.
The "dilution" in ideology of these politicians has not only surprised the activists but also pained them. It is an irony, they say, that Dalit leaders who claim to have been leading a rights movement for the oppressed in `cheris' (slums), have adopted quite a contradictory stand when it concerns women's rights.
"These Dalit leaders' sudden subscription to `Hindutva' strictures under the garb of chastity disturbs us. How can they henceforth take a bold stand when the rights of Dalit women are violated in caste issues," asks A. Vincent Raj alias Kadir of `Evidence,' a Dalit activist. He asks whether these self-styled custodians of Tamil culture, as they did in actress Khusboo's issue, would approach courts in cases against the murder of democracy in Pappapatti and Keeripatti panchayats.
Activist and advocate Hari Babu of the Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties-Tamil Nadu says the status of women is much lower than that of the Dalits in society. "At a time when a discriminated social group (Dalits) is fighting for its rights, activities inimical to women's rights should be avoided. Violation of any group's rights is against the spirit of any mass-based movement," he says.
"Any irresponsible approach to a sensitive issue like this by an outfit will only revive the oppressive forces, not from outside but within the Dalit sects. The movement will lose momentum, built studiously for the last decade after heavy sacrifices," says a woman activist.