10 May, 2021

Sectarian Fire Burns

Sangam-era violence was of tribal variety. Later it was between religions. Today, it’s caste riots that mostly erupt in Tamil Nadu.

Illustration by R. Prasad
Sectarian Fire Burns

Whenever a strife takes place in Tamil Nadu—­religious or caste-­related—a cry usually rends the air: ‘What is happening to our Garden of Peace’? That the Tamil land is a garden of peace is well-engrained in the minds of most of its people who look upon the communal and caste-related violence that bedevils north India with barely concealed contempt. But every one of them, barring a hopeless minority, have in them an inalienable religious or caste identity, or both, which they will defend with a surprising vehemence. I have seen docile Iyengars going red in the face and gnashing their teeth whenever they feel that their Iyengar-hood is being insulted. Similarly, it will be impossible for anyone, when Thevars are around, to say a word against Muthuramalinga Thevar, a formidable caste icon, and get away with all limbs intact. Aggressive posturing by Hindu, Christian and Muslim ideologues on TV channels is a routine, daily occurrence. The disdain most non-Dalits have for the just struggles of the Dalits is monstrously and demonstrably callous. A keen...

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