The DMK are trying to project themselves as the party that has empowered Dalits, but all they have done is insult the Chennai Mayor and the entire community, says a Dalit rights activist.

An image of Dindigul Leoni looking into the cameraDindigul Leoni/Facebook
news Controversy Saturday, May 21, 2022 - 15:21

A casteist slur against the Chennai Mayor by DMK’s policy outreach secretary Dindigul Leoni, has received severe condemnation from social activists who called his statements irresponsible and demanded he be removed from DMK party. At a public gathering held on May 18, 2022 in Ponneri, Tiruvallur district on the one-year achievement of the DMK government, Leoni said that Chief Minister MK Stalin was responsible for a Dravidian revolution by elevating a member of the Dalit community that once carried slippers on their heads, to a Chennai Mayor. The casteist slur received strong condemnation from human rights activists who called his comments irresponsible and demanded that DMK remove him from the party.

Chennai got its youngest Dalit Mayor, R Priya after DMK swept the local body elections. She is the third woman mayor of Chennai. Priya started her political career at the age of 18 and she pursued a master's degree in commerce and she was the first mayor nominee from North Chennai. "By talking about Priya, he insulted the entire community. In recent times, we often hear them saying they took many steps to empower our communities. But that is not true. BR Ambedkar framed the constitution and the constitution guaranteed all the rights that we are enjoying now" said ‘Evidence’ Kathir, Dalit rights activist. “They are trying to project themselves as the party that has empowered Dalits, but all they have done is insult her and insult the entire community. This is unacceptable and DMK should take stringent action against him. If they stay silent, then it would encourage other people to speak in a similar manner,” Kathir added. He opined that if a government empowered a community in this society, then it was its duty. “Now I'm asking how many Dalit men are holding DMK district secretary posts? How many Dalits are in our cabinet? The cabinet should represent the numbers according to Dalit population, right? We are lacking Dalit representation in many areas. We wanted to raise questions on this. But they are trying to keep our mouths shut with such casteist speeches,” he further added.

According to the report by News19 Tamil, Leoni in the Ponneri event,said that the Justice party changed the women who spent their days chatting with others by giving them the right to vote. "Later, Karunanidhi gave them property rights and now, CM MK Stalin gave 50% reservation to women in politics. Bharathiyar and Bharathidasan wrote about independent women and Stalin is making that happen," Leoni said at the gathering. "We can give hundreds of examples from the Dalit communities who worked for the empowerment of Dalits and worked to get their rights. Who carried slippers on their heads? Leoni doesn't seem to know anything about history, representation and reservation. The party talks about social justice, but Leoni keeps making insensitive comments and preaches casteism. In a meeting, if a party member wants to talk about the success of the regime, he can list out many things. But, Leoni resorts to controversial statements. What they speak in their private lives, reflects in their public speech," said social activist Shalin Maria Lawerence.

"He has been known for controversial speech only. He has previously made insensitive speeches about women's bodies during the election campaign and we urged the party to take action. But he was appointed as chairman of Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation. He is unfit for the post and now I'm wondering about the criteria they set for giving a post to someone like him. This behavior is condemnable and the government should take action against him," Shalin said. Leoni has made such controversial statements in the past too. During the Tamil Nadu assembly elections, he had said that Tamil women's hips looked like balloons as they drank foreign hybrid cow's milk. “Once, women's hips looked like number 8 and the kids could perfectly sit on that. But now their hips look like barrels,'' he had said in the meeting that drew widespread flak and condemnation.

Also Read : Untouchability in Tamil Nadu outrageously high, RTI reveals: Madurai top of list

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