The Pudu Viraalippatti is not an isolated incident where the VCK had to resort to peaceful struggle to raise their flag in a public place. in a August 2020, there was a similar encounter in the village of S Melapatti, Peraiyur, Madurai Province. In January of this year, when the VCK erected a flagpole and raised their flag at Usilampatti in Madurai, Caste-Hindus led a roadblock and other protests. Police and revenue authorities eventually succumbed to these demands, uprooting the VCK flag on January 28. To appear neutral, they removed the flags of the AIADMK and the Communist Party. Neither the ruling party at the time, AIADMK, nor the Communists launched a protest against their democratic right to fly party flags at the public bus stop. This means that the VCK will have the same rights, and they do not want to upset the feelings of the oppressive class. Instead, they were willing to compromise their public appearance if it meant VCK had to concede the right.

A similar conflict is now unfolding in Moror village, near Kadyambati, Kanavaiputhur Panchayat, Salem District. I spoke at length to A. Vasanth, the VCK County Secretary of Salem (North) who served 22 years in the party. VCK cadre organized a Flag Raising Ceremony at Muror Bus Stand in Remembrance of Periyar’s birth (September 17), where the Party Chairman and Member of Parliament of Chidambaram Thirumavalan was scheduled to participate. Vilbanidian, the party’s local secretary, applied for police permission to attend the event. On September 14, members of the VCK excavated the foundation where the flag was to be raised and laid the tube that would hold the flagpole. According to Vasanth, on the morning of September 15, VCK was informed that there was an objection to the flag of VCK. When the village administrative officer (Ambedkar Madhu) was asked to name the specific persons who had raised an objection, he refused to name any, merely saying that those opposed were from the PMK and Vanniyar. Police and revenue officials played the bureaucratic game of bypassing responsibility. The site in Morur already contained the flag of the PMK, the flag of the Vanniyar Sangam (Association of Caste to Control, the oppressive class Vanniyars), the flag of the DMK and the flag of the Vijayakanth representative party DMDK. This location is barely 200 meters away from Shery, and according to A. Vasanth, the original land for the village bus stand itself was granted by the residents of Shery In the late thirties. He believes that this is another reason why Dalit women in Moroore are at the forefront of the struggle to raise the VCK flag. “The party has to acknowledge their feelings, and we have to respect them when they demand their rights.” He cites the example of a 65-year-old Govindamal from the village, who argued that not only was the land allotted to the bus stop by Dalits, but even the land on which the nearby government school is located was given to Dalits as well.

When the VCK called, PMK MLA R Arul, who represents the Salem (Western) constituency under which Moror Village is located, said he was not aware of any objections from his party. He said they did not participate. On September 15, VCK submitted another representation to BDO and revenue officials who promised to look into the matter.

The next day, staff of VCK Paavendhan, AK Arjunan and Velpandiyan made a representation to the district collector, who says the land belongs to the Department of Highways, and that he will speak with them to ensure that permission is granted. On September 17, the event was cancelled. At the same time, the DSP sent via a letter denying permission to host the flag. A few days later, people from Moror A. Vasanth that the VAO removed the foundation of the VCK flagpole, a claim denied by the administration, until they were confronted with video evidence. For another week, the Panthers were kicked between police, the Highway Department and revenue officials. Contrary to what happened in Pudu Viraalippatti where the management went through at least theatrical two meetings of the Peace Committee, in Muror (Salem), no such thing happened.

On September 22, VCK’s request for permission for the next day’s flag-raising ceremony was denied, and a notice was sent to all concerned to remove their flag within a week. According to Vasanth, VCK representatives maintained that they had never called for anyone’s flag to be removed, and had also argued that if all flags were to be removed within a week, let the VCK flag fly for at least that long.

On September 23, more than 300 Dalits from Moror, including a large number of women, began a protest sit-in to demand their right to fly their flag. They started agitating inside Shery Itself. According to Vasanth who was at the site, the Dalit women were pushed by the police but held out. He admits that the VCK personnel had to retreat, unable to restrain the return of the people. He also noted that the original flag pole weighed more than 100 kg, and women from Shery Those at the forefront of the protest carried a smaller flagpole in order to erect it and raise the flag. There was a pre-planned plot. Soda bottles and stones started flying at people Shery. A gang was hiding in the school building all night long. In order to save people, we advised them to withdraw to SheryVasanth says. Around this time, SP Sree Abhinav immediately arrived with a police force. According to eyewitnesses, he physically assaulted VCK’s spokesperson, Pandiyan, and issued orders for his charge and arrest. More than 20 Dalits were badly injured in the mixer and were taken to Umalur Governmental Hospital for treatment. Many women bore the brunt of the violence, which I learned also included stampings, forcible beatings, and other forms of humiliation.

Police have arrested 17 Dalits who are now being held in Athor Prison. Those who were arrested from the cults of the oppressor were deposited in Dharmapuri Prison. On September 27, police brought in excavation workers to remove all party flags that were flying near the Morroe bus stop. There was no grumble of protest from any of the other parties.

VCK announced moves in Chennai, Salem and Madurai to condemn the events. The unrest occurred in Chennai on September 28, while those in Salem and Madurai were postponed at the last minute after intervention from the office of Prime Minister MK Stalin, who also holds the police portfolio. He also promised to investigate the case.

In other areas, the battle to raise the party flag continued for several years or was met with more tragic ends. Young Dalits have paid with their lives to claim this right. in 2018, 24-year-old Aravindan of Tiruppattur was killed by his employers for raising the VCK flag. In Rajagopalapuram in Virudhunagar district, VCK staff and the people of Shery They had to go through a long-running legal case from 2015 to get permission to erect a party flag in a far corner of their district — not even in the commons. They got their right legally in 2021, party leader Thule. Thirumavalavan raised the flag in September. In Ramanathapuram, the local SP is said to have thrown an open challenge to the VCK: “As long as I’m an SP here, not a single VCK flag will fly.” This is a reminder that police forces reflect the societies they emerged from, and that they will use their power unhesitatingly to maintain the status quo in the name of maintaining peace and harmony.

(All names have been changed to protect identities)

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