By Rajiv Shah
Can “caste annihilation” also break the oppressive chains of women? A recent conference of V Gita, an eminent feminist writer and social historian, has suggested that there is no such one-to-one relationship between the two. Hailing from Chennai, Geetha was in Ahmedabad to lecture “Dravidan and Different? What women writers have to say”, where she suggested that the powerful anti-Brahmanical Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu has not led to the simultaneous liberation of women.
In Ahmedabad for the Umashankar Joshi memorial conference, organized by the Gangotri Trust, Geetha told the audience that the furthest Dravidian politics went, even as it compromised caste and Brahminism, was under the AIADMK’s senior ministry of J Jayalalitha, who limited herself to “productive welfarism of women”.
Responding to a Counterview query, he said the current DMK government pursues the same policy: “protecting” women and offering them welfare measures, rather than defending their rights. However, she was quick to add that the current DMK leadership is “under pressure” to take a more radical view, as after a long hiatus of several decades, feminists are visible on the scene affirming gender issues that seemed to have been swept under the rug. .
Author of several books including “Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar” and the Question of Socialism in India”, “Undoing Impunity: Discourse After Sexual Violence” and (with SV Rajadurai) “Towards a Non-Brahmin Millennium: by Iyothee Thass to Periyar”, Gita, during her presentation at the conference, he indicated that the Dravidian view never went beyond the need to protect women, noting how CN Annadurai, founder of DMK, criticized “seductive women”.
The presentation quotes Annadurai, who has strongly attacked the “trap of Brahmanism”, but in an apparent reference to the Ramayana, notes how a poet sought to portray Sita. “This king (Ravan) saw an Aryan woman, became passionate, lost his head and fell from grace…” In doing so, says Annadurai, “this poet has sought to sully the pride of the Dravidian race”, asking himself: ” Would we Dravidians be tempted and lost by an Aryan woman?”
In stating how the moral and ethical vision of women took shape with the formation of DMK, Geetha cites a folktale from the 1950s, describing how a woman saw her “husband trapped in poverty, followed his path, found a rich man, lured him in, just to be able to live with him, and he won a waistband, a mango-shaped necklace, diamond earrings, a ring, ten acres of fertile land, and a bungalow.”
Calling the woman “seductive,” the story goes on to say, “Even the guy who drives his car for a living wouldn’t give her a quarter. Instead, he’d lament his fate and lament the fact that he has to work for a sinner as flawed as she is. May those fallen women be hosts to the foreigner. We will work to release the chains that bind our homeland.”
Annadurai’s and DMK’s political views on women do not reflect those of EV Ramasamy Periyar (1879-1973), social reformer, anti-caste crusader, atheist and advocate of women’s rights, and founding father of the Dravidian movement. In fact, Periyar has been assessed to have vehemently opposed patriarchy, actively fighting for women’s right to education, property, sexual freedom and contraception, insisting on the total destruction of masculinity.
Urging “sisters,” Minakshi wrote in Kudi Arasu, they should “reflect for a moment on the horrors they endure in their daily lives… You borrow money, because you wish to observe a custom, practice a ritual, borrow for a funeral , a pilgrimage… Consequently, poverty, humiliation, debt, the court order, the mortgage, the misery that visits your children, the unbearable sadness and the rebuke of others: one follows the other”.
It calls on the sisters to “boycott the homes of those who oppose any movement to reform women’s lives; whether it concerns the abolition of the devadasi system or the rights to education and mobility of adi dravida (dalit) women.”
Indrani Balasubramanium is then quoted criticizing the “comrades” in Kudi Arasu: “Our comrades are happy to talk about Brahmanism, about self-respect, about socialism, and if, after talking about all this, they have some time They deign to talk about women’s rights. But many are careful to put that entitlement talk behind them when they go home; Just as you leave your slippers outside the front door, our comrades are careful to drop all references to women’s equality before entering their homes.”
Neelavathi, writing in “Puratchi” (Revolution), is quoted as stating that women working in “offices, courts, universities, hotels, factories, in tailoring, weaving, construction, in the fields and at home” are “ the first proletariat. , lamenting, they are “denied the dignity of their work, and worse still, work is considered a mark of masculinity…”
And, Miss Gnanam wrote in “Revolt” that marriage “is not a matter of arrangement” or a “matter of haggling and negotiation,” nor is it “a business transaction to be worked out by others who are not part of it.” ; it is “a contract… culmination of the bond of love existing between two parties”, it is “purely personal, and never complementary. It is left solely and entirely to the freedom of the individual, and wherever that freedom is manipulated, the result is an unhappy union.
Analyzing five Tamil women fiction writers (1950s and 2000s), Geetha says that Krithika wrote about the elite world of the Indian civil service in the context of nation-building without engaging with the issue of caste; Rajam Krishnan wrote about “the intimate lives of women and in the context of ‘modern development’ beset by social unrest and restlessness”; Hepsibah Jesudasan wrote about the tribulations of women in the days of the modernization of Nadars; P Sivakami wrote about “the claims of Dalit patriarchs”; and Su Tamizhselvi wrote about women in the “world of subaltern castes”.