THIRD state conference of TNUEF was held on August 15-17 at Thanjavur, in the Cauvery Delta, soil of heroic struggle of poor agricultural labourers against both economic and social oppression, led by P Seenivasa Rao and P S Dhanuskodi.
The TNUEF conference ended with mammoth rally on August 17, which was attended by nearly 20,000 people. Sitaram Yechury, general secretary, CPI M) delivered a special address in the public meeting conducted at Thilagar Thidal. He urged all democratic sections to join the struggle against caste oppression. He highlighted the need for broader unity to counter the divisive politics of the rulers and their attempts to silence the democratic opinion in the society. He cited Kashmir issue and pointed out that it is the part of their grand design. Jakkaiyan (Arun Tamilarkatchi) and Chinnai Pandian, secretary of reception committee also spoke.
WIDE SPREAD PRE-CONFERENCE CAMPAIGN
Before the conference, TNUEF launched widespread month long campaign in the form of "dialogue with the masses", against caste oppression which was inaugurated by freedom fighter and senior leader of the communist movement, N Sankariah. This dialogue has been conducted in many villages including ones where ‘caste Hindus’ predominantly resides. The campaign has been taken among students, youth and middle-class employees. Competitions were conducted on the subject among students. These exercises were interactive and people across caste identities participated. Hundreds of such exercises have instilled confidence among the activists to move forward with greater spirits.
JATHAS CULMINATE AT CONFERENCE VENUE
Five jathas were undertaken preceding the conference which included highlighting the issues of dalits. Keela Venmani jatha highlighting, the integration of both struggles of economic and social oppression, Ariyalur Nandhini memorial jatha against atrocities on dalit women, Anitha memorial jatha against commercialisation of education, N Venkatachalam memorial jatha emphasizing the need to bring masses together irrespective of caste identities in struggle against casteism, Nandhish-Swathi memorial jatha against caste arrogance killings from Hosur and Nellai Ashok memorial jatha from Tirunelveli against caste atrocities. Jathas were received at conference venue. Mariappan (SFI) presided and oath against social oppression was administered by Rejiskumar (DYFI).
The conference began with impressive open session inaugurated by Justice Chandru(Retired) and with special address by Thol Thirumavalavan(president, Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi) , K Balakrishnan(state secretary CPI-M), Hendri Diphane (senior human rights activist), Sasi Pandiyan and Nagai Tiruvalluvan (Tamil Puligal).
Justice Chandru appreciated the role of TNUEF in bringing the issue of dalits to the mainstream agenda and appealed both Left and Dalit organisations to come together to take on present day challenges posed by communal forces. Thol Thirumavalavan appealed to communist parties to take lead to mobilise masses against caste oppression. His view has become focal point for prime-time discussions in one of the popular media channels, the next day.
K Balakrishnan emphatically made it clear that the CPI(M) will carry forward both struggles against class exploitation and caste oppression together.
The delegate session was conducted by the presidium consisting of P Sampath, M Anandan, M Kandasamy and Deepa. Welcome address was delivered by Raj Murugan, progressive film director.
K Samuelraj presented the report for discussion titled, "Battle field and our targets". The report made detailed analysis about more than 500 interventions of TNUEF made during this period under review and experiences of them. The report established the fact that TNUEF is the organisation which makes its presence first in the field where ever caste atrocities or caste arrogance killings’ takes place. It has not confined to visits and offering sympathies to victims. Instead it helps victims continuously to come out of trauma, medical assistance, legal assistance, till ensuring justice and relief, such as financial assistance to education etc.
The report narrated the various instances of attacks on dalits. Examples- at Ponparappi village to prevent them from voting; at K Thottiyapatti village, when dalits broke norms restricting their access to public water tap by fixing specific time; at a village near Tiruppur Nool, where a dalit cook Ms Pappammal was barred from her official duties; at many villages where dalits were denied crematory rights and had to fight by keeping dead bodies on road; attacks for celebrating new year; brutal killing of one girl at Salem Attur by chopping the head before the eyes of her mother.
Four hundred kilometre ‘padayatra’ from Salem to Chennai was conducted, demanding special law against caste arrogance killings, which brought the issue to the fore and helped to build public opinion against such brutal casteist acts.
The delegates session was addressed by P Shanmugam (AIKS) Athiyaman (Adhi ThamilarPeravai), M Veerapandian (Tamilnadi Odukappattor VazhvurimaiIyakkam), Kovai Ramakilrishnan (Thanthai Periyar Diravidar Kazhagam), Murugavel Rajan (Makkal Viduthalai Katchi), and Puli Pandi (Thiyagi Immanuel Peravai).
Subhashini Ali delivered thought provoking presentation urging the cadres to take on the challenge of hindutva on social sphere with Manudharma mindset.
Radhakrishnan (president, DSMM) delivered concluding address appreciating the role of TNUEF in giving morale booster for the movement against social oppression throughout the country.
The leaders of various trade unions and mass organisations including CITU affiliates, DYFI, SFI, AIDWA, AIKS, AIAWU, AIIEA, BEFI, BSNLEU, teachers union, AILU, tribal association, TARADAC, TNPWAA, TNSF participated in the discussions.
HEART RENDING AND INSPIRING SESSION
"MY YOUNGER sister, Nandhini was subjected to gang rape and mudered two years ago at Ariyalur, which attracted wider condemnation throughout the state. Our relationship started with TNUEF at that time and continuing till date without any break in struggle for the justice”. These are the words of Sivaranjani in the special session organised at TNUEF conference for felicitating social activists and victims who relentlessly fight caste atrocities.
The conference had a special session to felicitate social activists and victims on the evening of August 16. Around 40 leaders of dalit organisations participated in it. Family members of victims and persons fighting against caste atrocities unleashed against them were felicitated; Abirami, wife of Soorakottai Marimuthu, Sabapathy and Ilavarasi, parents of Thitta Kudi Paranthaman, Sankar, brother of Hosur Nandhish and family members of Mukil Thagam Ajithkumar and Kolathur Solairaja. Sathish, brother of Ashok(DYFI) who was killed by ‘caste Hindus’ recently at Tirunelveli. The special session was presided by S K Mahendran, Ex-MLA and addressed by Adavan Theetchanya (TN Progressive Writers and Artists Association).
The conference passed various resolutions; Effective implementation of POA, special law against caste honour killings, proper adherence of principles envisaged for SCSP and TSP and special law to ensure its implementation, retrieval of ‘panchami lands’, against manual scavenging, against draft NEP depriving right to education for socially oppressed, pattas and right to city for slum dwellers, reservation in private sector, issues pertaining to dalit students such as post-matric scholarship and GO-92 of TN government, etc.
The conference has elected P Sampath as honorary president, Chellakkannu as new president, K Samuelraj as general secretary and Mohana as treasurer. The secretariat and state committee were also elected.
The volunteers of host district unit of TNUEF i.e., Thanjavur made excellent arrangements for the successful conduct of the conference.
The conference has generated much enthusiasm not only among participants but also amongst the people who are leading the struggles against casteism.