‘Locking up gods within caste’

This note comes via Malarvizhi Jayanth. Those in support can leave a comment saying so, and add their designations to their names, if they wish.

We call for all those who support democracy and free speech to express solidarity with Thirumavalavan, Meena Kandasamy and Samya.Kathavarayan and Madurai Veeran are among the gods who are acknowledged to be Dalit and are worshipped by many castes. Clearly, in the oral history of the people, the gods have castes and these castes are not determined by who worships them. The twin brothers Ponnar Shankar inhabit the realm between hero and deity. They have been fictionalised, recreated for the silver screen, and are worshipped across communities. Their origin myth remains contested territory – it is variously read as symbolic of the conflict between agriculturists/warriors and hunters, as part of founding tale of the land-owning agriculturist Kongu Vellala Gounder sub-caste and, in a textbook example of how Hindutva functions, have recently been claimed as reincarnations of the Pandavas. Like other deities of the people, they are firmly located in a historical imagination among a society of human beings, and not in a mythos of gods.

In a footnote in Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers by Thirmavalavan, MeenaKandasamy describes Ponnar Shankar as dalit. M Loganathan, an advocate from Nanje Goundanpudur and Students Wing Convenor of the Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK), has been quoted in news reports as saying that there is evidence proving that Ponnar and Shankar are Kongu Vellala Gounders and claiming that depicting them as Dalits will lead to caste tension.

Dragging cultural contestations into the legal domain threatens the various, creative ways in which people innovate cultural practices and the equally creative ways in which research tries to make sense of them. Criminalising cultural expression and innovation is an attempt to freeze culture.Locking up gods within castes is a tactic used by dominant castes to maintain status quo. This is an open threat against dalit belief, expression and right to self-determination. Like the repeated physical atrocities against Dalits, attempts to suppress their cultural and intellectual autonomy and self-assertion are part of a wider onslaught on democracy. This case is part of the drive to reconstruct India as a religious and cultural monolith, which it has never been.

The litigant had earlier complained that the film based on the Ponnar Shankar story, scripted by M. Karunanidhi, is misrepresenting deities but had contented himself with writing a letter to the censor board then. It is the leader of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, a well-known Dalit poet and translator and a publishing house that have been singled out for filing a case.We are secretly pleased that a footnote* is believed to have such power. Academics in our ranks are even now rejoicing at the thought of how they may change the world, one footnote at a time. But, mostly, we are offended.

We are offended that a deity being named dalit can even be called an offensive act. We are offended at how legal backing is available for openly-casteist harassment. We are offended at news reports that present this case as a quaint little example of caste quibbling,  without pointing to the long history of violence, without pointing to the continued conspiracy to maintain the status quo and culture of violence that this case is an outcome of.

Our histories are deeply marked by caste. We seek to emancipate our present by reclaiming these histories for the marginalised.

Re-writing history from the perspective of the marginalised is necessary and vital for the self-determination of dalit communities. Now, such an effort is being criminalised. This is a threat to democracy and the pluralist ethos. This is an offence against free speech. We stand in solidarity with Thirumavalavan, MeenaKandasamy and Samya, in support of the subaltern perspective and assertion they stand for.

*Here are some inflammatory footnotes about violence against Dalits:

Dalits have been denied temple entry, forced to work with hazardous material, treated as bonded labour and attacked for attempting to buy their way out of their bondage (subhead: Dalit Family Attacked over Land, September 2002).
In Kalapatti village, sustained violence against dalits, has lead to many of them to fleeing their homes. “On 16 May 2004, a Dalit settlement in the village of Kalapatti in Tamil Nadu was attacked by upper-caste members (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005; UN 23 Feb. 2005; DHRM n.d.; Frontline 19 June – 2 July 2004). According to the sources, approximately 100 houses were burnt down by a group of 200 people and Dalits trying to escape were assaulted, including reports of sexual assault of women (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005; UN 23 Feb. 2005; DHRM n.d.; Frontline 19 June – 2 July 2004),” notes the UN Refugee Agency website.

Signed
Jairus Banaji,  Chittibabu Padavala,  R. Kalaiarasu,  Swathi Vadlamudi,  Kuffir Nalgundwar, Malarvizhi Jayanth, Ajith Kumar A.S., Anu Ramdas, Anoop Kumar, Divya Trivedi, Karthikeyan Damodaran, Jaya Shobaneshwari, Satish Poduval, Khalid Anis Ansari, Afsar Mohammed, Divya Rajagopal, Bobby Kunhu, Jenny Rowena, Anil Tharayath Varghese, Sanil Zenbuddha, Smitha Patil, Sudeep Ben Aadil Almitra – Kozhikode, Sanjeev Sreedharan, Salim T.K., Rupesh Kumar, Manohar Kumar, Nabina Das, Afthab Ellath, Sruthi Herbert, Anand Navayana – Publisher – Navayana Publishing, Murali Shanmugavelan, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Vinay Sreenivasa, Anitha Ranjani Sampath, Rhoda Alex, Karthik Navayan, Poovi Gotha,  Vikram Benny,  Sushanta Sarkar,  Kumar Varma Kayanikorothu – Andhra University,  Rajashekhar Geddada, Thiben Ram – France,  Sanam Roohi Reddy,  Kiritkumar Pravasi, Prasheel Anand, Peggy Trawick, Shiva Shankar, Sujatha Surepally, Chellapandi – IHRE District Coordinator – Palani, Ponnuchamy, Arumugam, Ravichandran Bathran, D. Ravikumar, Jebamalai Raja

An update on the list of signatories on 19 June: Benjamin P Kaila – Los Angeles – Friends for Education International, Gills John, Leena Manimekalai, Poovannan Ganapathy, Reny Ayline, Sadique Pk Mampad, Rama Hansraj, Chandraiah Gopani, Prabhu Mohapatra – Department of History – Delhi University, Nivedita Menon – JNU, Pramada Menon, Rajkumar Hans – History – MSU – Baroda, Janaki Srinivasan – Panjab University, Aniket Alam, Aditya Nigam, Sudarshan Papanna, Chinnaiyan Lakshmanan, Smriti Suman – Department of Political Science – Delhi University, Baskar, Yasser, K Sanjay Kumar, Abdul Khadar M., Shruti Sareen, Balaji Kulasekaran, Jay Sullivan – USA, Md. Ali – Correspondent – TwoCircles.net, Ravi Shankar, James Chang, Akshay Sharma – National University of Juridical Sciences – Calcutta, Kenneth Jackson – USA, Abhirami Sriram – Editor – Orient Blackswan, Karthika Naïr – France, Vinay Bhat, Nishanth, Munusamy Ganapathy, Prashant Tandon – Delhi, Sneha Krishnan, Bhargavi – Student, Rahul P.S., Inasu, Muraleedharan Raghavan, Mathi, Karthikeya Sivasenapathy – Tiruppur, Joe, Deepti Nair – Sub-editor – New Indian Express, Venkatesa Pandian, Nathaniel Roberts – Research Fellow – Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity – Germany

An update on the list of signatories on 23 June: Ramakrishna Bhargav N. – Research Scholar – Department of Communication – University of Hyderabad, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Sharmila Rege, Nikhila Henry, Deepesh C., Aniruddha Dutta, Anant Maringanti, Sukumar Muralidharan, Leonard – Hyderabad University, Ausaf, Sreekanth Bolloju, Hany Babu, Gopikanta Ghosh, Gouri Patwardhan – Filmmaker, Subaguna Rajan, T. Sundara Vardhan, Abhiyan Humane – UW-Madison, Geeta Charusivam – Activist – Chennai, Raju Naran, Ranjith Kumar, J. Devika, Uma Chakravarti, Ashley Tellis, Anushiya Ramaswamy, Dr. Tharakeshwar V.B. – Associate Professor & Head – Department of Translation Studies – School of Interdisciplinary Studies – The English and Foreign Languages University – Hyderabad, C.S.Lakshmi (Ambai), Ivy Hansdak – Asst Professor – Dept of English – Jamia Millia Islamia – New Delhi, Kotesh Devulapally – Research Fellow – EFL University – Hyderabad, Ramesh Aroli – Assistant Professor – Dept of Journalism – Kamala Nehru College – University of Delhi, Harsh Mander, Govind Krishnan, Premjish – MPhil Visual Studies – School of Arts and Aesthetics – JNU, Sruti Bala, Dr. Nikhila H. – Head and Associate Professor – Department of Film Studies and Visual Communication – The English and Foreign Languages University, Chandrashekhar Aijoor, Aparna Eswaran – Research Scholar – CIPOD – JNU, Raghvendra .H.K, Selva, Dilip Gaikwad, Bhimrao Kuchekar, Arumugam, Nirmala M N – Research Scholar – EFLU, Amartya Kanjilal, Ketaki Chowkhani, Sanju Jyo, Akshi Singh, Rahamath Tarikere – Professor – Dept. of Literature Studies – Kannada University – Hampi, `Sufi’ MP Prakash Nagara – Hospet, Sravanthi Kollu, Nataraj Honnavalli, Gee Ameena Suleiman – Bangalore, Darshana Sreedhar – Research Scholar – CSSSC, Sowmya Dechamma C.C. – University of Hyderabad, Govindarajan.G – Asst Engineer – IOCL, M.S.S. Pandian – JNU, Anushiya Ramaswamy, Kaveri Rajaraman Indira, Vijay Boratti – Assistant professor in English – University Evening College – University of Mysore, Kancha Ilaiah, Paramjit S. – Judge, Anandhi S. – MIDS – Chennai, Arumbhu, Mohan Rao – JNU, Saptarshi Mandal – Legal Researcher – Delhi, Philip Vinod Peacock – Associate Professor – Bishop’s College, Revd. Dr. Keith Hebden, Arunesh Maiyar, Simona Sawhney – University of Minnesota

107 thoughts on “‘Locking up gods within caste’”

  1. I fully support this statement. Janaki Srinivasan, Panjab University.

    However I am also struck by how we can substitute gender for caste in much of this statement and Thirumavalan will not agree with the outcome. After all, he and his party is the one which trumpeted the cause of the chastity of tamil women in the Khusboo case and used the same tactic of legal harassment. What if the instance was over a goddess reclaimed by feminism to questioned entrenched ideas of gender norms and functions in our historical experience. So I continue to be

    offended that a woman questioning the norms of chastity can even be called an offensive act, offended at how legal backing is available for openly-patriarchal harassment, offended at news reports that present this case as a quaint little example of political opportunism and feminist over sensitivity, without pointing to the long history of violence, without pointing to the continued conspiracy to maintain the status quo and culture of violence that the Khusboo case was an outcome of.

    1. Engaging to correct and strenghten is good.But one should see to it ,not to fall into the trap of brahminic elite holier than thou position, by pointing an accusing fingure on the budding movements of the marginalised.Thoug, I do agree with the valid criticisms

    1. In Solidarity to the statement.

      At the same time, I endorse point raised by Janaki. Aniket it is better not to know the detail.

  2. I support the statement but also think that Janaki raises some important issues – not directly related to the statement but necessary as a reminder that many battles need to be fought together.

  3. I agree that the issue highlighted – but the issue raised by Janaki, infact Periyar was totally against the concept of chastity, as he considered the same to be against women freedom. Further, instead of concentrating on these frivolous issues like above let us fight for real freedom of dalits – that is educational & economic freedom.

  4. Dear Thirumavalavan, Meena Kandasamy and Samya,
    Look at this, not as harassment, but as an opportunity to fight caste. The court, by accepting the case, has given legal sanction to the issue. The issue should be brought national focus (if not global) to call the bluff on hindutva and other casteists.

  5. Fully support the comments.Govt has no right to silence those with an opinion different from convention.

  6. i support for Meena Kandasamy and not for Thiruma who lost my respect after the Khushboo incident. He had so much promise to bring in to the Tamil politics but betrayed by his actions or inactions to support his main cause…safeguarding the dalits.

    1. So Mr. Sanjay Kumar.. your support depends on who you like or respect, and NOT based on the issue..

  7. I wish to support this statement and to advocate that this lawsuit against Thirumavalavan, Meena Kandasamy and Samya.

  8. I wish to support this statement and to advocate that this lawsuit against Thirumavalavan, Meena Kandasamy and Samya be dismissed. I believe that this sort of sectarian dispute brings disrepute upon the state of India in the world community.

    Jay Sullivan
    Barboursville, West Virginia, USA

  9. I totally support the statement and would like to remind all that the right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as “the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.

  10. I fully support the statement.

    Akshay Sharma,
    2nd year law student,
    National University of Juridical Sciences,
    Calcuttahttp://kafila.org/2011/06/17/locking-up-gods-within-caste/#comment-form-guest

  11. I support the statement. I am also concerned by the points raised by Ms. Srinivasan about the parallels between the two cases and the divergent views adopted. Nonetheless, freedom of expression and of belief must be protected.
    Karthika Naïr
    France

  12. i sign up for the statement.
    reg the quwstion raised by ms janaki
    firstly the protests against khushboo was directed not for her views against premarietal sex.she commented to a magazine that she feels that in this generation there will be rarely be anyone in tamilnadu who have not had premarietal sex.the media twisted the protests against khushboo for this comment to her views on premarietal sex
    secondly khushboo was in the forefront of humiliating director thangarbachan a close friend of thirumaa.he was not able to finish his movie as his heroine falied to turn up till she got her full payment. the comments by the director against the heroine where taken to the artistes union and he was forced to apologise.khushboo gave a comment to the media outside that she is going to the meeting with slippers which may be torn after the meet ends.thirumaa requested his friend thangar bachan not to apologise but he was forced/threatned to apologise.the cadre anger against khushboo in this episode reflected in the protests against khushboo.i am not justifying the protests against khusboo but giving the facts.is it right to say that nowadays u will rarely find anyone without experiencing premarietal sex

  13. I support the statement and the cause..this is one of the battles against a full scale war to weed out most horrible social order in the world.

    Prashant Tandon
    Delhi

  14. IN THE COURT OF THE HON’BLE JUDICIAL MAGISTRATE NO.1 OF COIMBATORE C.C. No. 133 of 2011 R.Kalaiarasu (28) S/o K.A.Ramasamy, Lawyer, having office at No.7, Aishwarya Complex, Gopalapuram 1st Street, Coimbatore – 44. — Petitioner/Third Party In the matter of M.Loganathan — Respondent/Complainant VS. Thol.ThirumavalavanManthra SenMeena Kandasamy — Accused THIRD PARTY

    AFFIDAVIT I, R.Kalaiarasu, aged about 28 years, son of K.A.Ramasamy, Lawyer by profession, (Enrollment No.Ms.2309/05) having office at, No.7, Aishwarya Complex, Gopalapuram 1st Street, Coimbatore – 18, Coimbatore, do hereby solemnly affirm and sincerely state on oath as follows:- I am the deponent herein and third party to the proceedings. I am a lawyer and practicing in Coimbatore District Courts. I also am working with a Social and Human Rights Movement viz., Tamilaga Makkal Urimai Kazhakam. The said forum has filed several notable litigations before Hon’ble High Court of Madras for social justice, human rights, prisoners’ rights and other democratic rights. I came to know through newspapers that the Hon’ble Court was pleased to pass an order to take cognizance of a complaint filed by Mr.M.Loganathan against Mr.Thol.Thirumavalavan, Member of Parliament and two others for the offences punishable under section 153, 153 (A), 505 (2) of Indian Penal Code on 31.05.2011. The Hon’ble Court issue notice to the accused for appearance on 01.07.2011. The allegation of the complainant is that he is belonged to Kongu Vellala Gounder community and devotee of Veerapur Annamar Swamigal. He read a book viz., “Uproot Hindutva” and it was mentioned in the book that “Two dalit brothers, Ponnar and Sankar, who saved their people from invasion and worshipped….”. He was put much mental shock and trauma, because he believed that the Annmar brothers are belonged to Kongu Vellala Community. He felt that it will create disharmony in society. Hence he filed the present complaint. I humbly submits that the complainant was not obtained prior sanction from State or Central Government, required under section 196 of Criminal Procedure Code to take cognizance of offences under section 153 – A & 505 (2) of Indian Penal Code. Hence this case is not legally sustainable unless there is the prior sanction from the government. I humbly submit that there are lot of disputed version regarding origin and history of Ponnar and Sankar. Mr.L.Paranan of Periyariyal History and Arts Research Centre published a book viz. “Ponnar Sankar – A Historical Social Study”. It was mentioned in the book that, “the story of Ponnar Shankar was not based historical evidence and facts and it was a story”. I learnt that during British period, the book based on Annamar Sanikal Kathai of Pulavar Pichai Pattar was banned citing the reason that it was creating disharmony in society. Further I state that various Dalit communities are worshipping the Annamar Samilgal as their family deities particularly in western districts of Tamil Nadu. Further I state that it is almost seven years since the book published by 2nd accused and no disharmony in society has been caused in all these years. Now the complainant filed the present complaint. I apprehend that the filing of complaint itself and its vide publicity in the newspapers for the present complaint which based on a book, that was banned during the period of British rulers, will create disharmony in the society. Hence I would like to challenge the present complaint before the Hon’ble High of Judicature at Madras in the interest of Communal harmony. Hence I file this application for certified copies of complaint, order dated 31.05.2011 and sworn statements of the complainant and witnesses. Therefore, it is prays that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to issue certified copies of said petition mentioned documents and thus render justice.
    Deponent Solemnly affirmed and signed before me at Coimbatore on 06.06.2011 Advocate, Coimbatore
    IN THE COURT OF THE HON’BLE JUDICIAL MAGISTRATE NO.1 OF COIMBATORE C.C. No. 133 of 2011 R.Kalaiarasu (28) S/o K.A.Ramasamy, Lawyer, having office at No.7, Aishwarya Complex, Gopalapuram 1st Street, Coimbatore – 44. — Petitioner/Third Party In the matter of M.Loganathan — Respondent/Complainant VS. Thol.ThirumavalavanManthra SenMeena Kandasamy — Accused THIRD PARTY AFFIDAVIT I, R.Kalaiarasu, aged about 28 years, son of K.A.Ramasamy, Lawyer by profession, (Enrollment No.Ms.2309/05) having office at, No.7, Aishwarya Complex, Gopalapuram 1st Street, Coimbatore – 18, Coimbatore, do hereby solemnly affirm and sincerely state on oath as follows:- I am the deponent herein and third party to the proceedings. I am a lawyer and practicing in Coimbatore District Courts. I also am working with a Social and Human Rights Movement viz., Tamilaga Makkal Urimai Kazhakam. The said forum has filed several notable litigations before Hon’ble High Court of Madras for social justice, human rights, prisoners’ rights and other democratic rights. I came to know through newspapers that the Hon’ble Court was pleased to pass an order to take cognizance of a complaint filed by Mr.M.Loganathan against Mr.Thol.Thirumavalavan, Member of Parliament and two others for the offences punishable under section 153, 153 (A), 505 (2) of Indian Penal Code on 31.05.2011. The Hon’ble Court issue notice to the accused for appearance on 01.07.2011. The allegation of the complainant is that he is belonged to Kongu Vellala Gounder community and devotee of Veerapur Annamar Swamigal. He read a book viz., “Uproot Hindutva” and it was mentioned in the book that “Two dalit brothers, Ponnar and Sankar, who saved their people from invasion and worshipped….”. He was put much mental shock and trauma, because he believed that the Annmar brothers are belonged to Kongu Vellala Community. He felt that it will create disharmony in society. Hence he filed the present complaint. I humbly submits that the complainant was not obtained prior sanction from State or Central Government, required under section 196 of Criminal Procedure Code to take cognizance of offences under section 153 – A & 505 (2) of Indian Penal Code. Hence this case is not legally sustainable unless there is the prior sanction from the government. I humbly submit that there are lot of disputed version regarding origin and history of Ponnar and Sankar. Mr.L.Paranan of Periyariyal History and Arts Research Centre published a book viz. “Ponnar Sankar – A Historical Social Study”. It was mentioned in the book that, “the story of Ponnar Shankar was not based historical evidence and facts and it was a story”. I learnt that during British period, the book based on Annamar Sanikal Kathai of Pulavar Pichai Pattar was banned citing the reason that it was creating disharmony in society. Further I state that various Dalit communities are worshipping the Annamar Samilgal as their family deities particularly in western districts of Tamil Nadu. Further I state that it is almost seven years since the book published by 2nd accused and no disharmony in society has been caused in all these years. Now the complainant filed the present complaint. I apprehend that the filing of complaint itself and its vide publicity in the newspapers for the present complaint which based on a book, that was banned during the period of British rulers, will create disharmony in the society. Hence I would like to challenge the present complaint before the Hon’ble High of Judicature at Madras in the interest of Communal harmony. Hence I file this application for certified copies of complaint, order dated 31.05.2011 and sworn statements of the complainant and witnesses. Therefore, it is prays that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to issue certified copies of said petition mentioned documents and thus render justice. Deponent Solemnly affirmed and signed before me at Coimbatore on 06.06.2011 Advocate, Coimbatore
    By: Kalai Arasu

  15. I fully support the statement. At the same time, let us remember that sttricly speaking the gods transcend- if not they aren’t gods- all barriers. Unfortunately, the whole thing has been historically muddled up with the notion of “pollution” propounded by the caste pundits and prevalent for several centuries. The campaign
    during the Independance movement for low caste’s right to temple entry is a case in point. In a mutireligious country like India, it is high time that we liberate gods from the shackles of caste and creed. I say this ’cause in the so called most literate state of Kerala, temple entry ia still forbidden to large section of population. Let this be the beginning of a senbilization for reclaiming all god for all humans.
    Bon courage!

  16. I fully support. Dravidians are still under slavery for some 4000 years
    due to their own hanumans like these. Just see what happened to
    them in Srilanka. Though they look no different from the Dalits, some
    of these hanumans still silently practice untouchablity and ‘unseeability’
    (this incident indirectly amounts to that!).

  17. i agree and fully endorse the statement.

    Karthikeya Sivasenapathy
    Kuttappalayam p.o.
    Kangayam taluka
    Tiruppur district

  18. I wish Anna is alive to non-stop blog for a year on this. I think, Anna want to educate people with simple stories and similes. One might ask, what kind of education Anna want to provide to people?. Yes, under the rule of British and also other foreign invasion in grater part of present India, people appears to be in salve mode instead of being master mode. Thus, I think Anna want to remind all people that they are masters and they are not slave to any one. May be, task was simple for Anna because he was very intelligent and gifted with lot more power in his presentation. It is highly incorrect to say that Anna wants any in-harmony in community. In fact Anna went one side above MK Gandhi and EV Periyar by participating in official rule of the state and brings changes in democratic way. On the same light, I want to go step further on the path of Anna by saying that “Digital World provides equal opportunity to all”. In the modern connected world, race, religion, cast and gender are not coming in a way discriminate people. But people will get classified or discriminated on the basis of talent of a given individual. Thus, new problem pops up?. What we will do people fail in their exam?. May be we need to seek solution from Plato’s idea of governance. Let us not waste time by going with non rewarding things.

  19. This is a case between one individual and three individuals.Projecting this as x caste vs y caste is misleading. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, subject to some restrictions. The constitution does not state that some persons/communities have more rights as freedom of expression than others. So basically if it is be argued that she has the fundamental right to express her views and this case against her challenges that, then she should invoke her fundamental right in defense, not the caste factor.

    “Kathavarayan and Madurai Veeran are among the gods who are acknowledged to be Dalit and are worshipped by many castes. Clearly, in the oral history of the people, the gods have castes and these castes are not determined by who worships them. The twin brothers Ponnar Shankar inhabit the realm between hero and deity. They have been fictionalised, recreated for the silver screen, and are worshipped across communities.”

    Kathavarayan and Madurai Veeran have also been recreated for silver screen (way back in 1950s) and they also ‘inhabit the realm between hero and deity’. So what is true of Ponnar-Shankar is equally true of Madurai Veeran and Kathavarayan. There are ballads on Madurai Veeran etc and these are part of the folklore in Tamilnadu. In fact they are available in print and there can be more than one version to each of these ballads.

    ‘in a textbook example of how Hindutva functions, have recently been claimed as reincarnations of the Pandavas.’
    Where does Hindutva come in this. Did any organization like RSS make this claim first and link it with Hindutva. How does a claim that they are reincarnations of Pandava justifies/supports/legitimises Hindutva. Mahabharata is an epic and through out India in many places there are stories/myths that link some persons/places with characters/events in that epic. This has nothing to do with Hindutva because Hindutva is a political project where as such myths and beliefs are limited to that localities.

    “This case is part of the drive to reconstruct India as a religious and cultural monolith, which it has never been.”
    She is trying to make a monster out of a mosquito. The case is against three persons and is about a belief that is held by a section of people in a particular region in Tamilnadu. Can she offer any proof to substantiate the claim “his case is part of the drive to reconstruct India as a religious and cultural monolith”. Ponnar-Shankar story may be widely known in tamil nadu but worship of Ponnar-Shankar is limited to a region in Tamilnadu. So her claim is silly if not outright nonsense.

    “Our histories are deeply marked by caste. We seek to emancipate our present by reclaiming these histories for the marginalised.”

    In an earlier paragraph it is stated “Their origin myth remains contested territory – it is variously read as symbolic of the conflict between agriculturists/warriors and hunters, as part of founding tale of the land-owning agriculturist Kongu Vellala Gounder sub-caste”. When does that myth become history or vice-versa. In few paras founding tale is transformed into history.

    What is the history she seeks to reclaim and is it a history that is made pure after removing all the myths and bases solely on facts and evidences that have been found to be true and beyond challenge.
    What is sought to reclaimed here- founding tale as history?. One can make/remake/unmake any number of histories if we equate such tales with histories and substitute one ‘myth’ for another ‘myth’.
    If the argument is that Ponnar-Shankar are historical figures and there is evidence that they were dalits, then the best thing is to argue on the basis of evidence.

    ‘Re-writing history from the perspective of the marginalised is necessary and vital for the self-determination of dalit communities. Now, such an effort is being criminalised. ‘

    When does a mere footnote become an effort to re-write history. Making a claim that goes against another claim cannot be considered as an exercise in re-writing history because re-writing history is not as simple as that. Has Meena Kandasamy provided evidence to her claims and has she claimed that this foot note is an effort to re-write history. If so what is the history that is being re-written here. Ponnar-Shankar are worshiped in one region of Tamilnadu and is this re-writing project linked to the re-writing history of that region from a dalit perspective. If so please substantiate that claim.

    Meena Kandasamy needs a better defense than what has appeared in Kafila. She can invoke the right to freedom of expression and argue on that basis. But that fundamental right is subject to restrictions and courts have upheld bans on some books and have also quashed such bans on some occasions. Since this is a legal issue the best approach is to handle it as a legal issue without bringing in other factors like caste.

    Finally to know more about state of free speech in India read
    http://www.thehoot.org/web/simages/2011-02-11~fshmonograph.pdf
    particularly the article ‘Hate Speech: The fault line that divides advocates of free
    speech’ which is relevant to this case.
    P.S I am not giving my real name or email address for some reasons.

    1. I don’t think the observer’s point of views are correct. Every caste group has some heroes heroines.Some real and some unreal.It is true for all the caste groups of all the regions. Even I have heard the stories of Ponnar Shankar and NALLTHANGAAL in my childhood. I believe the intermediate castes of Tamil nadu have of late started kidnapping the local deities of dalits by force (sheer numbers and by other means like cinema,magazines etc which are basically anti-dalit).History is re-written everywhere.FCs become BCs,BCs become OBCs and OBCs become MBCs just by agitations. This has been going on since long.Numbers matter.Dalits being spread thinly across the nation are not in a position to stand up and fight.Thats the reality.
      Political power is a must to save your history and identity. Karunanidhi is a racist and anti-dalit by nature.In order to make political milege with the dominant Kongu Velalas he penned the story line for the movie.He has knowingly done a wrong to the dalits of that region.He must be prosecuted first for twisting the history and creating the present situation of pitting individuals against a group with money and muscle power.But one thing is clear, dalits are not going to take it lightly anymore. Violence will spread eventually because Violence will meet violence.

      1. @Arumbu,

        Pls dont make allegations without substantiations.. you are invoking racism by repeatedly clinging on to dalit victimisation, while that has nothing to do with the case against meena kandhasamy..

        It is the political and academic intellectuals, who are involved in rewriting history for their political interests and ideological interests.. the common people dont have these needs, and they follow the stories generation by generation.. Since these histories are decentralised and under no one’s control, the accusation that these has been kidnapped is a bogus allegation..

    2. Congratulations for an excellent analysis, narrative, and commentary on the matter. It was gratifying to hear a sane,and reasonable voice among these mostly meaningless and misguided chatter. Of course, without evidence, anything is possible, but you can’t stake your claim to history on that rhetoric. You need solid evidence and the evidence is in favor of Annanmar being a Kongu legend as provided in the seminal works of Brenda E F Beck, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, Canada.

  20. I endorse this statement and strongly deprecate the practice of dragging cultural contestation into the legal domain. But I call for greater clarity on the appropriate use of symbols from an invented primordial past in contemporary political contests. And also for addressing the gender question that has been raised in this thread by one of the earlier responders.

  21. A clarification: This solidarity statement is written in support of academic freedom, cultural innovation and their autonomy from legal control, not in support of individuals and their politics. It is to oppose the legal harassment they are facing now. This statement on Facebook has an ambiguous or even misleading title. Therefore, Janaki Srinivasan is right in raising a very important but different issue. We could change the title to ‘In support of academic freedom, cultural innovation and their autonomy from legal control’. Other suggestions are welcome…

    Links to and excerpts from some of the writing about this case have been collated at http://writingcaste.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/the-caste-of-gods/

  22. I endorse the statement and support Meena, Thol. Thirumavalavan & Samya in their struggle.

  23. iam fully support for this statement and my personal support to thol.thirumavalavan because he is the real freedom fighter to dalits

  24. There are lot of things said in that book and the above article is wrong.
    First, there is no such thing as dalit caste as present when the annanmar story happened. Present day dalits in the Kongu region came after Nayak king rule(How they become dalits is also a inter community fight). You can read the story, various castes mentioned in the story but there is no such dalit people mentioned or repeated.
    Second, most of the so called folk stories has few to lot variants. Annanmar story also has the variants but non of the dalit people created or known any variant. How come dalit worshiped them as their god but didn’t have a story or any info related to them?
    Third, relating annanmar to pandavas done long time, that is not newly created thing. So you people need to get some facts correct.
    Fourth, entire story is about fight between two land owning communities. One wanted land for agriculture and another wanted land for forests and hunting. Descendents of both communities/castes still live in that region and none of them classified as dalits. I don’t understand how come they become dalits?

    If re-writing history can be done, who decides what is wrong and what is right? If imagination is enough to rewrite history, I don’t know what to say. Please get some facts get right and do some research.

    I know Kafila wont publish comments criticizing their lies. Let me see.

    Rajasankar
    Belonging to Kongu Region

    1. Whether dalits were there or not at the time of Annanmar story is an interesting sub-story I believe. Let it be so for arguments sake. Now in your own words there were no dalits in the past.How they become dalits after nayaks rule is not known to all.I have a faint idea. Now after so many centuries if some one tries to abduct the deities for themselves on the basis of political / economical clout how will it be accepted by them who were worshipping those as deities. Is it not an injustice? Local deities are obscured by the caste connotations to the advantage of Aryan Deities. Courts,Police,Media ,Military,Govt machinery all work against the dalits. It is shameful.Goondaraj. I fully support the individuals not just for freedom of expression as some prefer to,but on the basis of regional word of mouth histories passed on from generation to generation. The matter is an attempt to subjugate the dalits with the modern tools available to the dominant castes of India. The whole machinery is against the dalits.They should in fact struggle for a separate state.

      1. Thanks for publishing the comment. I thought, it wouldn’t.

        Reply.
        //Now after so many centuries if some one tries to abduct the deities for themselves on the basis of political / economical clout how will it be accepted by them who were worshipping those as deities. Is it not an injustice?//

        Yes, Exactly the same injustice is done in the name of freedom of speech. Yes local deities are bound to caste because, they worship their forefathers,family gurus or some one who helped their family, village etc. They are normal human beings and worshiped for their qualities. Usually, their descents or those who got help will take are the puja, maintenance of the temple etc. I dont understand, how come you can write a book saying that it is otherwise.

        If you have time, please ask those dalits, because they also have their local gods. Best example is Madura veeran. He loved a higher caste girl and both are killed in a fight. So, particular caste of dalits worship the madura veeran. I sure, tomorrow some one can write a story saying that mdaura veeran is actually a higher caste and these dalits are stolen their deity. Will that be accepted as freedom of speech?

        It is illogical to think, dailts had given up their deities to others and didn’t even had any evidence for that.

        For those who support this book in name of freedom of speech, please show some evidence to support Ponar-Sankar are actually dailts. If not, don’t call this as freedom of speech. It is called lie.

        This is a lie, and lies needs to be fought in court of law. That is what the court is about. If you couldn’t prove what you written, why you’re hiding behind the freedom of speech thing? If that freedom can be granted to lies, plagiarisms then I am sure everyone can get a Phd.

        It seems to be trend to write anything about anything calling re-telling/re-writing a story and that is accepted as genuine evidence in academic circles. What a shame.

        Rajasankar

  25. My complete endorsement.

    Philip Vinod Peacock
    Associate Professor, Bishop’s College
    Co-Editor, Dalit Theology in the Twenty First Century (OUP 2010)

  26. Anyone who challenges the Hindutva colonialisation of culture and mind should have our full support.
    Revd Dr Keith Hebden author of “Dalit theology and Christian anarchism,” Ashgate, 2011.

  27. “Dragging cultural contestations into the legal domain threatens the various, creative ways in which people innovate cultural practices and the equally creative ways in which research tries to make sense of them. Criminalising cultural expression and innovation is an attempt to freeze culture.Locking up gods within castes is a tactic used by dominant castes to maintain status quo. This is an open threat against dalit belief, expression and right to self-determination. Like the repeated physical atrocities against Dalits, attempts to suppress their cultural and intellectual autonomy and self-assertion are part of a wider onslaught on democracy. This case is part of the drive to reconstruct India as a religious and cultural monolith, which it has never been.” this is a powerful statement – I fully agree with it and affirm the truth in it.

  28. Can anyone answer my question?

    What is the evidence for saying Ponnar Sankar are dailts?
    In the name of cultural expression or freedom of speech can I rewrite history?

    When dailits are given space in mainstream temples that is called sanskritization and frowned upon. If not, then that is called discrimination. Nice trick.

    Rajasankar

    1. 160 million dalits donot require ponnar sankar,they require Dr Ambedkar 22 Vows by which they can give two finger to Hindus and their Hindu led government.Dalits should embraced the Islam ,Buddhism and Christnity so these hindu gods and godeses would die in hunger.In my opinion dalits should not divert their energy on Hindu saints and other cow shits people.This is duty of Dalit intellectuals to teach their fellow about Dr Ambedkar and nothing else.

  29. This is pure nonsense.. what do you mean by cultural innovation? Stealing gods of others? It is not innovation, but dacoity..

    Every caste owns their god, and so as gounder community.. that doesnt mean others cant worship it.. no one prevents tirumavalavan from worshipping it.. the problem arises when he attempts to project our gods as dalit brothers.. its like calling your father as my father..

    Your article confirms that you dont know anything about the ponnar sankar story, just like meena kandhasamy.. your argument of dalit beliefs under attack is a joke.. the common people in dalit communities know very well that ponnar sankar is a gounder, and they do not have any issues.. it is the vested political interests, who are doing the dalit victimisation propoganda..

    Let me see, if you are publishing this comment, as per your free speech theory.. if not published, i am going to post it in separate blog..

  30. Which God belongs to which community, I never wanted to know. I see God as God. But, saying that someone got hurt, not because the other person doesn’t accept their God as God but because their God was called a dalit, shows the distance we’ve covered – all these years – towards eradication of social discrimination. With our minds still corrupted, how are we going to get united in our fight against other forms of corruption.

  31. Dear Rajssankar, we have to annhilate the Hinduism from the dalit lives then no body would bothered about ponnar sankar and people would not waste their time about Hindu gods and godeses.

    1. @Kumarpushp

      I welcome to you to try that. One millennia of brutal killings, destroying temples,suppression couldn’t annihilate Hinduism. Now two centuries of these kind of propaganda couldn’t annihilate Hinduism. Do you think, you can do that?

      Now the cat is out the bag. For this entire drama, you’re not rewriting history or uprooting hindutava. You want entire Hinduism destroyed and Hindus converted to other religions.

      Why you can’t say that in open? Why you people are hiding in confusing terms such as cultural innovation?

      Rajasankar

      1. One barbaric hindus are talking about temple distruction.Buddhism was annhilated by dwarf Adishankracharya ,even hindus are occupying the Puri and Gurvair temple.Hindus are like snakes who never built their home .Hinduism is a false religion where no human can believe.Dear rajshekhar you religion days are number.160 million dalits are getting ready inch by inch to take their land back from barbaric hindus.i donot give any shits to hindus we are concern about 160 million dalits who are suffering in india because of barbaric hindus.Dr ambedkar had told all hindus in parliament that what type of religion you want ,you want a corrupt Rama who had killed Shambkha or Morally corrupt Krishna.for dalits it does not matter whether Ponnar sankar was dalits or not but it does matter that 160 million dalits are not hindus.

  32. Kumarpushp,

    do not worry, false religions will die sooner, when god returns in near future.
    God does not have religions and caste.

    The western religions say, we are all non-believers and shall be punished for not believing their religions. You can convert to their religions and enjoy.

    In their religion also, in some places of their sacred holy books, they say : God says I created human beings in our form.
    What is the meaning of “our” form? means human looks like God?
    Why plural (our) is used”. Does that mean, are there many gods?

    They say we are idol worshippers and non-believers.

    Can you tell why there are many divisions like Sunny muslim, shia muslim etc,
    Can you tell why there are many type of christians, like, catholic, protestant, syrian, etc?

    All I want to say that all bull shit.

    You can see what karunanidhi is really. You can read the Karunanidhi’s ponnar sankar book page 12 first para. Then you will understand what type of politicians are guiding you and towards what.

    1. Dear Arun , Politician are worried for five year but sons of Dr Ambedkar are worried for genration.Karunnanidhi is being worried about their wealth and their clans and he does not have any time to think about dalits.dalits have to fight this war with hinduism with own resources.

      1. “The Untouchables (Dalits) of India want economic, social, political, religious and educational equality in Society, not in the eyes of God.”
        (Harbans Lal Badhan)

  33. kumarpushp

    Any decent fellow will laugh at your statements. Branding everyone as Hindu etc will not solve the problem of the so called dalits. Do you think Daits are safe in Christianity or Islam ? Take a research on their plight in Bangladesh and Pakistan and very importantly in INDIA. Dalits have their own Churches and if not, have their own lowly seats in others. I think you are carried over by newsmedia and the so called Human rights organizations (otherwise called money generating organisations).

    The name Hindu was given by outsiders. Before that no one called themselves so. Every sects was one religion. And so were Dalits of every denomination. Do not ever dream of branding all such small sects among Harijans into one bracket called ‘Dalit’. You will feel sorry later. I know cases where one sect of harijans will not drink water from another sect and so on. When they themselves have this kind of hierarchy and untouchability, what else can others do ? They are scattered socially throughout India. The so called act of uniting them is the cunning agenda of divisive elements like the Roman Catholic Church etc who have their minions among every political party. The Tamil panther discussed here qualifies well for that title of ‘minion’. He is a paper tiger and is a despised man among his own people. He was thrown out in the recent elections despite being with the rich and powerful MK.

    I think you have missed some issues. The harijans are bothered about their own microscopic communities in their area and care a jot for others elsewhere. THIS IS TRUE OF EVERY SECT. Repeat this and memorize this. There will be hundred and one paid news broadcast over TV channels and magazines but this is the bare truth. Do not ever call yourselves dalit anymore and do not insult any other with this title. This is a political game and has nothing to do with the social issues the harijans across India face.

    1. Venkakat,you are using harijan word which is derogatory and used by Bania Gandhi.Dr Ambedkar had said mr gandhi and his clans if dalits are son of god means you and your hindu clans are born by dog.Dalits are not hindus for your kind information.I think you and your hindu clans born with dog sperm.

  34. Beautiful article!.More research needed. Politicians can write anything and try ti change the history by bluffing. but we can not allow them to fabricate the history.!

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