“Caste in Tamil Nadu” 3 essays by MSS Pandian (EPW)

(I) Caste in Tamil Nadu – A History of Nadar Censorship

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°3,  on January 19th 2013

Representations have been made by some of the political parties of Tamil Nadu to have a particular chapter in an NCERT Class IX textbook removed; the chapter is being attacked for discussing the past of the infl uential Nadars as “untouchables” and for highlighting the role played by 19th century Christian missionaries in the community’s subsequent upward mobility. The present clamour for a censored caste history has a right-wing Hindu character to it. If memories of degradation are an enabling resource in producing alliances against continuing forms of oppression, in this instance erasure of such memories is what is being sought by an upwardly mobile caste.

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(II) Caste in Tamil Nadu – Slipping Hegemony of Intermediate Castes

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°4, January 26th 2013

The case of violence against the dalits by the Vanniyars in Dharmapuri recently is not a sign of resurgent casteism as the media and others are claiming. The state has definitely benefited from the anti-caste movements in the past and the dalits are experiencing upward mobility. The violence is a desperate acknowledgement of the dalit reality and the inability of the intermediate castes to exercise caste power over them as in the past.

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(III) Caste in Tamil Nadu – Denying Difference

Published in EPW, vol. XLVIII, n°8, on February 23rd  2013

Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of implementing reservations on a preferential basis for different groups. The Arunthathiyar Special Reservation Act (2009) allots the Arunthathiyars 3 percentage points out of the 18% reservation for the scheduled castes. While having benefited the Arunthathiyars, the Act continues to be contested by other scheduled castes.

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