Dheeran Theerthagiri Gounder, popularly known as Dheeran Chinnamalai, was a freedom fighter and a powerful Kongu leader.

Celebrating Dheeran Chinnamalai Saluting his ideals or inciting casteist passions
news TN 2016 Monday, April 18, 2016 - 10:39

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J.Jayalalithaa and DMK Treasurer M.K.Stalin on Sunday celebrated the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Dheeran Chinnamalai, said the press releases from their respective party headquarters.

Dheeran Theerthagiri Gounder, popularly known as Dheeran Chinnamalai, was a freedom fighter and a powerful Kongu leader. He is said to have been trained alongside Tipu Sultan and fought the crucial Polygar war, after the defeat of which he was hanged and killed. Belonging to the Gounder community, Dheeran Chinnamalai is a symbol of pride, dignity and honour for the members of the community, who form the crux of population in the Kongu region of Tamil Nadu.

“Dheeran Chinnamalai’s contribution to the freedom struggle, for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu and especially the Kongu region is immeasurable. He is a great leader and the state of Tamil Nadu is honoured to have had a leader like him.  He is a symbol of pride, not only for the people of Kongu region, but for all youngsters. They should regard him as a role model,” said M K Stalin in a statement, adding that he took great ‘pride’ in remembering the contributions of Chinnamalai on his birth anniversary and that it was during DMK regime that a statue of the leader was instituted in Chennai.

The AIADMK in a press release described that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa celebrated the 261st birth anniversary of Dheeran Chinnamalai by offering flowers to his photograph, in honour of his memory.

The Kongu region, comprising the districts of Salem, Tirupur, Coimbatore and Erode has been witnessing tumultuous battles on the grounds of caste over the last eight months. The Gounder population from the region, popularly addressed as the Kongu Vellalar community is classified as a backward caste and is one of the primary beneficiaries of the 69 per cent reservation quota of the Tamil Nadu government. The image of Dheeran Chinnamalai is often used as a tool to gain more popularity in order to achieve political aspirations of the parties, often said to deviate from the very ideals held by the anti-colonial crusader, especially in the light of upcoming state elections. The man accused of brutally murdering Dalit youngster Gokulraj for simply hanging out with a caste-Hindu girl was the leader of an outfit called the Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai.

“I would not find fault with the invocation of his name for the ideals he professed and believed in. But eulogising icons under the blanket of vote bank politics is something that should not be approved of. I have just one question to ask – can both DMK and AIADMK even pretend to climb his anti-colonial legacy? If so, their economic policies speak otherwise as both the Dravidian parties are pro foreign investment,” said Ravikumar of the VCK.

The freedom fighter’s name was dragged into the shackles caste politics, in October 2015, when the Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai leader Yuvaraj was accused of murdering Gokulraj for being ‘seen with a girl from an upper caste at the Thiruchengodu Arthanareeshwarar temple.’ The accused, reportedly justified the murder on caste and communal lines, and is said to have received a hero’s welcome when he surrendered before the CB-CID office. The VCK spokesperson Ravikumar, in this light opined that such events only whip up casteist passions, a scenario that the parties could avoid if they make an effort.

Terming these groups ‘caste-mafia’, Assistant Professor Lakshmanan at the Madras Institute of Development Studies has earlier said that such celebrations are planned propaganda and people like Yuvaraj are a part of these caste-mafia and ‘which systematically poisons the minds of students’, and gives them the needed money and political power. He argues that even to-officials are powerless in front of these mafias who are backed up politically.

Popular political commentator Gnani Shankaran blamed the English language press for trivializing the issue. He said, “Political parties will continue inventing new reasons to celebrate as long as they gain publicity from the media. Such irrelevant activities will stop only if the media decides to consider them as petty and ignores such issues.”


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