Marathi movie Sairat, a story about an inter-caste couple was one of the very few movies which started a conversation around the topic of caste killing. Despite making such great progress in terms of education and economy, shackles of caste continue to pull us back as a society.
Tamil Nadu is one of the states which takes pride in anti-caste politics. However, this has not stopped the recurring incidences of caste-based violence. However, a group of five Periyarists- four High Court lawyers and a policeman have opened a shelter home for inter-caste couples in Trichy.
Free accommodation, food and guidance
On February 10, a registered NGO Adhalinal Kaadhal Seiveer (AKS) run shelter home for inter-caste couples was inaugurated by the state’s Social Welfare Department.
AKS is an NGO started in 2017 by four lawyers and a retired police inspector. Advocate Se Gunasekar, advocate Porkodi, advocate Ilamathi, advocate Angaiyar Kanni and retired police head constable Pitchai Sudar from different corners of Tamil Nadu came together to work for this noble cause. All of these five individuals are active Periyarists. Having had inter-caste marriages themselves, they have helped several similar couples to start life afresh over years. Similar thoughts, ideologies and beliefs brought them together, which culminated in the founding of AKS. Periyar, known as “father of modern Tamil Nadu” was a social activist who fought against caste prevalence and women oppression. Individuals following his ideology are referred to as Periyarists.
This shelter home is strategically located in the Navalpattu police colony to give the residing couple a sense of security. Se Gunasekar, while speaking to The Logical Indian said, “We specifically chose Trichy because it is situated at the heart of the state. The shelter home is situated just a kilometre away from Navalpattu Police station and 5 kilometres away from an all-women police station. It is also situated very close to the police training college. All this to give a sense of security to the couple.”
This shelter home can house one couple at a time. The couple is given free accommodation, food and clothes for a week. They are even provided with guidance and counselling. Mr Gunasekar said, “Like after an accident, the first hour is considered to be the golden hour, similarly, our experience has shown that for such couples, the first week is the golden week. We help them get married, have their marriage registered and help them in deciding about the future course of life.”
The shelter home has a board, which says, “Saadhi madham ozhiya kalappu mannamey theervu”, meaning “for caste and religion to be banished, intercaste marriage is the only solution”. Writings of BR Ambedkar and Periyar adorn the walls of the building. This humble shelter also houses plenty of reading materials.
“Not proud to open such a shelter”
“If you consider caste based organisations or ‘Jaati Sangham’, working for the benefit of a particular caste. These people are united on the common criteria of caste. We are working for the benefit for the intercaste couples. People who marry across castes, come into our community, united on the common factor of being inter-caste unions,” said Mr Gunasekar.
Mr Gunasekar, who has helped over 100 inter-caste couples is an active Periyarist. “I had an arranged inter-caste marriage, but the difference is that I arranged it,” proving his dedication to the ideology of Periyar.
“In Tamil Nadu, many people take pride in the teachings of Periyar. They say we don’t believe in caste, but it seems that nowadays people say this only for the political purpose and don’t adopt his philosophy wholeheartedly. I actually don’t feel proud about opening such shelter in the land of Periyar. There are still caste-based atrocities that exist. Tamil Nadu is better in terms of having low caste-based discrimination and crimes, but it still needs to improve. Periyar worked for this all his life, but now few elements are issuing threats to those who follow Periyar’s ideology. This is the situation right now, we have to work together to overcome this,” Mr Gunasekar said.
The Logical Indian, on one hand, appreciates forming of a safe haven for such couples. However, as Mr Gunasekar rightly said, we also feel saddened by the fact that even in the 21st century one is not allowed to love whomever they want. Mr Gunasekar who did an arranged inter-caste marriage raised an important question, “All of us talk about caste atrocities and inter-caste marriages, but how often when we look for a person outside of our caste when go for arrange marriage.”