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November 10, 1998


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The Rediff Interview/Dr K Krishnaswamy

' The Dravidian movement has got infected with Brahminism of the backward community'

So, you tell them to attack the attackers' houses so that they will understand your pains.

Dr K Krishnaswamy We have tolerated a lot.

But is violence for violence an answer to the problem?

No. We are not for positive violence. It is only defensive violence. I tell them to take up arms to protect themselves. I tell them, don't be unarmed.

It was reported that when a dalit woman was raped, you asked the dalit men to go and rape four women from the other community. Was it right?

I never said that. Women belong to the weaker section and I am always for the weaker section. I will never ask anyone to go and rape another woman. If at all a dalit woman is raped, I'll ask the dalit men to go and attack the man who committed such a heinous crime.

Where will this violence lead to? The other communities attack dalits, dalits retaliate. Violence, violence and more violence...

Till now it was unquestionably a one-sided attack. Pain and sufferings were only for one group of people. Even a pinprick can cause so much of suffering but we have suffered from aruval (machete), lathis, knives, bombs and bullets. I only want to show the other brothers that even a pinprick can be painful. Our intention is not to injure the others but to show them how much even a pinprick hurts.

Do you believe that if you inflict on them a pinprick, they will understand the pain and will not attack you again? Will they not become more violent?

There must be some balance. Not all the backward people are attacking us. Only a few are caste conscious. They can be corrected in due course. Once the dalit community raises its head, the others will go down. India tested its nuclear weapon not to attack anyone, but just to tell the others that we are armed. When we are armed, it boosts our confidence. So I tell them to be mentally brave and confident because that is more important.

Recently there was an all-party meet in Madras to discuss the frequent caste clashes in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu, and it decided to ban caste rallies and caste organisations. Do you think it is a good step?

It is a wrong step. I have already opposed the move. These political parties are one of the reasons for the caste differences, caste animosities and caste clashes. The dalit problem is entirely different. They are marginalised and suppressed. After two thousand years, they are grouping together to fight for their cause. How can they prevent dalits from holding rallies? How can they compare the rally of dalit people with somebody else's? So, exemption should be given to the meetings of dalits. The ban is absolutely wrong.

The Dravidian movement began as a non-brahmin movement. Now, you are moving away from the Dravidian movement as a separate entity. What will happen to the Dravidian movement?

The Dravidian movement is an utter failure now. It has become infested. Like plants and animals get infected, this movement also got infested with brahminism of the backward community.

Is it not true that dalits could raise their voice now only because of the Dravidian movement?

When the Dravidian movement started, the dalits thought they would share power with them, untouchability would vanish and all their problems would be solved. But nothing happened. The anti-brahmin movement became a backward class movement. They started suppressing the dalit people.

So, there came an upper caste among the Dravidian, backward class movement itself.

Yes. So the Dravidian movement became a backward movement instead of a forward movement.

You told me earlier that your brahmin in headmaster was sympathetic to you but not the other teachers. Does that mean the upper caste among the Dravidians are less tolerant than the brahmins?

Even though the Brahmins are responsible for all these problems, I feel that they have started learning lessons from history. I think they are more accommodative now. The brahmins are able to understand the realities but not the backward people. The brahmins are more sympathetic to the dalit people. They may be thinking this way too, we have done a lot of harm to the society, and it is our duty to correct it. We cannot also say that all the brahmins have changed. Brahminism still exists.

Do you consider the elite of the backward as the immediate enemy of the dalits?

The system is brahminical, but the people are backward people. The backward community became the policemen of brahminism.

You are described as the 'Saviour of Dalits' by many...

I do not say so. I am a simple, ordinary fighter for the oppressed class.

Recently Dr Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi said you shouldn't behave as if you are the only saviour of the dalits.

I can also ask a question. Who is Ramadoss to talk like that?

Do you see a poor oppressed man born in a forward community as a dalit and will you fight for him?

See, there are problems (to accept him). I am not talking about class oppression. Yes, if they are fighting for economic liberation and if they come forward to shake hands with a dalit in a brotherly manner, we will definitely fight for him.

What is your aim, to come to political power or liberate the dalits?

Both. Coming to power is liberation for the dalits. Without liberation, nobody can come to power. Without power, nobody can liberate. So, both are two sides of one coin.

How will it help the dalits if you come to power? How different it will be for them?

The dalits are treated as second class citizens on this soil. That will not be the case when we come to power. The wealth of the country will be shared equally. The law will be enforced in an unbiased manner. We will not act in a vengeful manner.

You mean you will not be vindictive?

That is why I said before you asked the question. We will not be like Idi Amin.

Recently Subramanian Swamy called you the Bhindranwale of Tamil Nadu.

Utter nonsense. He should not have talked like that. We are sending him a legal notice.

Are you angry or hurt?

Who is he to call me like that? Being an MP and an ex-minister, he should not have used a word like that. Such sarcastic comments are unwarranted. I am reacting to it.

Are you still an atheist?

Yes, I am still an atheist.

I see some contradiction in the person who is fighting for the oppressed living in a hotel like this.

This is different. Your mind has to be attuned to the problems. I don't live here. I stay here temporarily. During my student days, I had a watch and when I spoke for the poor, even other students questioned me about my watch. They asked, 'You wear a watch and speak Communism.' All those who have criticised me are leading their own lives. So, these things do not matter ultimately.

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