“How do you expect us to travel in a bus named after a Dalit”, this had been the voice of the so-called upper-caste Hindus (Devars), when the government of Tamilnadu in 1997 decided the Virudhunagar transport corporation to be called after a Devendrar’s name, Veeran Sundaralingam. And how long should we live behind the caste wall (though the wall was broken in existence) in villages like Utthapuram in Madurai district, serving to those who in the past, as Deva Aasirvatham penned in his famous book “Moovendar Yaar” (Who is Moovendar?) took pride in calling themselves the “pillais” (sons) of Devendrars? What about Kandadevi in Sivaganga district? [No such place as this should not be in our age.] How many lives are we going to sacrifice simply for the reason that we are Devendrars, in place like Kodiyankulam? And how long do we continue to be ‘slaves’, as our ancestors used to be to the upper-caste Hindus form the past few centuries? [Our generation must not.] Above all, how long should we degrade ourselves by calling “Pallars” instead of “Mallars”, connotating “mannars” (kings). The posterity of Devendrars to come should no longer feel hesitated to say that they are Devendrars. Then what is to be done? Nothing happens if we fail to make our voice heard among those who used to avoid us, nor are there any magic wands to bring forth the likely results simply by waving it. The only thing that changes everything is the “power” that we should have to become what we once used to be – physical, educational, professional, financial, social and political.
Agriculture and war had long been the two eyes of Devendrars. The present-day Devendrars’s state can’t just be confined within few words. Once the owners of lands are now made to labourers and earn in wages, and it happens in the several parts of Tamilnadu to Devendrars to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Should we not own the lands that we owned once, and what should be done to be what we were in the past? The history itself is a witness as it has witnesses our valiant fights with the so-called caste Hindus and the rigorous retaliations when we were made to be the subject of unutterable assaults by them. Though it happened, we should be yet more aggressive to fight for our rights and strong enough to strive to get all once we owned and should not reap the harvest as labourers any longer. For this is the world where “only the fittest can survive”, which we [should] know.
How good it will be for a Devendrar to see another Devendrar sitting in the chair of an IAS officer, administering the district or an IPS officer controlling the law and order. Probably, we had and have, but, I am sure, not in huge number, as one expects. “A few” should be elevated to “in multitudes”, and we can make this possible with educating the Devendrars. We cannot simply deny the fact we are provided with much more schemes, facilities and others that involve educating scheduled caste, and instead of asking what the governments – central and state - are going to do for, simply ask ourselves how many of us know what they are. Making the school-and-college-going Devendrars and their parents know about the governmental schemes, and letting them use them to uplift themselves is one of the foremost duties to be focused. Also, starting or identifying NGOs that dedicate themselves in working for the upliftment of scheduled caste in general and Devendrars in particular – through which we must do to our people whatever we can – can’t just be ignored. Keep in mind that education can change the fate of people and lays the way for the financial empowerment through professionally – governmental, non-governmental, self-employed or whatever they are – being sound and better.
The current social status of Devendrars is ever worse than the worst with some exception in certain areas in Tamil Nadu. The fact that can’t be just denied is Dalits always have been the target of victims all over India, and we Devendrars were and are the subject of unaccountable miseries, especially in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. As having mentioned earlier in this essay, Devendrars are refused even to take part in religious festivals. Kandadevi is Sivaganga district in an instance for this. Caste wall was built in villages like Utthapuram in Madurai district. In the brutal attacks targeting Devendrars by the Devars in the 1990s, we sacrificed innumerable lives, though we fought the battle well against them. What is most unbearable is that we have been denied justice during the attacks. All the governmental authorities and the governmental itself did all that they can do against us. The fact that is yet painstaking is that though we managed to get some of our people educated, we are still in a position of fighting for our rights. To be respected in the society, we need to have “political power” or to be “politically powered”.
The words within quotes ask, no doubt, for confusion. By political power, I mean the power to make legislations and amendments for Devendrars, and by politically powered, we must be in a position of usurping power in political parties, through which utilising our influence in ruling parties to get our agendas and expectations fulfilled.
Coming next for my discussion is the political power that we should have, which in my standpoint needs to be detailed in a separate essay.
In short, “to be ruled” or “to rule” is the only question left before devendrars. “To be ruled” and to continue to be what we are now simply need nothing, but “to rule” and to be what we used to (as Mallars) in the past, we must have to have all the powers that we should have. It is possible only when we are ready to “strive, to seek and to find and not to yield”, as Tennyson’s Ulysses told to his crew. DO WE?