Nearly a decade long unrelenting battle of Tamil Nadu Devendra Kula Vellalar borne fruits with Prime Minister Modi led government moving a bill in Parliament on 13th February of this month to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in the State. PM Modi, who was in Chennai on 14th to inaugurate various projects worth Rs.8,128 crores in the poll-bound Tamil Nadu, said that his government had conceded to the demand to group the seven sub-sects ( Pallar, Kudumbar, Kadaiyar, Pannadi, Kaaladi, Vadiriyar and Devendra Kulathar- as “ Devendra Vellalar’ community. They account for a considerable size of vote share in southern districts of Tamil Nadu.
Caste card is going to play a crucial role in the ensuing election. Already PMK, a dominant Vanniyar party, has upped its ante demanding 20 percent exclusive reservation for them in job and education. Devendra NGO Trust founder M Thangaraj has been fighting for this demand. Puthiya Tamizhagam president Dr K Krishnaswamy, who had praised the RSS after attending the Nagpur events and he is a vocal supporter of PM Modi. He lost the Lok Sabha elections as an NDA candidate in 2019. Krishnaswamy was saying seven different sub-sects to be integrated under the single name of Devendra Kula Vellalar. He even demanded that these groups should be removed from the SC list to end the stigma associated with the community name as being former untouchables. He has been fighting for over 3 decades to bring together all these seven subjects under one name and be called as Devendra Kula Vellalar.
Around a week after TN Chief Minister Edapadi K Palaniswamy, who on December 4, had announced that the state government would recommend to the Central government to include the seven SC sub-sect under the “Devendra kula Vellalar” community, accepting recommendations of the sub-committee headed by Dr S Sumathi, professor and head of Anthropology dept., Madras University. The committee was tasked to look into the demand. When complaints were made that the Government was sitting on the report and not forwarding it to the Centre, another one-man-commission headed by an IAS offer Hansraj Verma was setup. It too given its recommendations. CM Palaniswamy said the community would continue to remain on the SC list keeping their current socio-economic status and they would continue to get the benefits intended for SCs.
On 13th February, Union Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar moved a bill in Lok Sabha to modify the list of SC in Tamil Nadu. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill (2021) seeks to re-group the 7 SC sub-sets. Prime Minister Modi in Chennai said, “They will now be known by their heritage and not the six to seven names listed in the Constitution. The draft Gazette to amend the Constitutional schedule to correct their name as “Devendra Kula Vellalar” has been approved by the Centre. It will be placed before the start of next session”.
Thanking the state government for a detailed study on their demand, PM Modi recalled a meeting with the representatives of the Devendra Kula Vellalar way back in 2015 in New Delhi. He said their sadness over colonial rulers taking away their pride and dignity was evident. Modi said “ I told them their name Devender rhymes with my own name Narendra. I understand their emotions. The decision is more than just a change of name, but about justice, dignity and opportunity. We all have a lot to learn from the culture of the Devendra Kula Vellalar community. They celebrate harmony, friendship and brotherhood. Theirs was a civilization movement. It shows their self-confidence and self-pride. It is an honour to work towards preserving and celebrating the culture of Tamil. The culture of Tamil Nadu is popular”.
M Thangaraj hailed the Centre’s decision by saying that it was the victory for the cultural struggle that was beyond politics. He said, “henceforth, the word “Dalit”, the most offending and undignified which denigrate our pride can’t be used. We have won our 600 years old battle for honour. Both PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have understood the importance of the demand for cultural change when other political parties were talking about rhetorics of empty reservation politics. Secondly what we talk about is based on virtue-based economics and politics. We are not after government jobs, concessions. We had to feed an entire city once. It is the beginning of a self-reliant life with increase agricultural output to improve our standard of living and economy. It is an honour and recognition. DMK had been grabbing our chances by not allowing to grow. When there was an opportunity for one of our representative from our community to become union Minister, DMK had foiled his chances. We are not ungrateful. We will surely work for BJP and AIADMK and vote for their combine. We have considerable presence in 20 districts and in 50 constituencies and our votes will decide the winners. We will teach a lesson to the people who had not shown respect to our community”.
PT chief Krishnaswamy said “we are basically a farming community. Our land were taken over by the invaders. Under the British raj, our community was wrongly included in the SC list (Adi Dravidar). Our original identity of Devendra Kula Vellalar community was hidden. We are being called ‘Adi Dravidar’ and other such coinages. We oppose the inclusion of our community in the SC list. We were the owners of land ( bhoomidars). We deserved to be honoured. I have submitted a request to the government. Now the Central government has accepted my demand of changing the name by introducing a bill in Lok Sabha. I am grateful to PM Modi, Amit Shah and CM Palaniswamy for this great effort to meet our longstanding demand. Now we have retrieved our identity. Next is to come out of the SC list”.