Tamil Nadu bans practice of public announcements using the thandora

Social activists had been demanding that the practice be done away with, as it was considered an undignified work directly connected with the root of caste system and oppression.
A person making an announcement using a thandora
A person making an announcement using a thandora
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Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu on Wednesday, August 3, instructed all the district collectors in the state to ban the use of thandora (Tom Tom) to inform the people about important news. In a statement, V Irai Anbu said that science and technology have improved to replace the thandora system. In many villages of Tamil Nadu, public announcements and important news is relayed accompanied by the beats of the thandora, a small drum.

Use of the thandora is an ancient practice which is still followed in many villages of Tamil Nadu to announce any important news from the village leader or village administration —  ranging from news about water services, power cuts, polio drives or government medical camps. The thandora was considered as the official medium of communication between people and the village headman.

According to the social activist Shalin Maria Lawrance, the practice of announcements through the thandora was largely practised by the Paraiyar community in Tamil Nadu. Social activists had been demanding that the practice be done away with, as it was considered an undignified work directly connected with the root of caste system and oppression.

In a statement, V Irai Anbu said, "I've seen that in many places, the thandora is being used to inform the people. Social activists are worried about this practice and have been highlighting it. Science has emerged and technology is developed. In this context, we don't have to continue this thandora system anymore. Messages can be carried to the people via moving vehicles with external megaphones to the nook and corner.”

The Chief Secretary also directed the Collectors to strictly ban the usage of thandora and make them aware of this ban even at the local body level. He has also directed the district administrations to take action against those who defy the ban.

Very recently, in Chinnasalem of Kallakurichi, the taluk office had made announcements using the thandora in Kaniyamoor and nearby villages calling for the return of items stolen from the Kallakurichi school during the riots over the death of a 17-year-old student.

On August 1, Villupuram MP Ravikumar took to Twitter to condemn the practice of thandora as it was used to inform the people about the flood in river Cauvery. "The chief minister who is announcing and implementing many progressive schemes should ban the practice of thandora," he had tweeted.

Today, after the announcement from the Chief Secretary many social activists appreciated the step taken by the government. “On behalf of the entire Adi Dravidian community, I thank you for erasing this social stigma imposed on the common people for hundreds of years” MP Ravikumar reacted after the statement released by V Irai Anbu.

"Using thandora to announce the news from the government to the common public was there even in the British era. The practice was not banned even after the country got independence. In the past, the lower-level employees in the revenue department were called Thalaiyari and Vettiyan. Later, their names were changed to Grama Paniyalargal (which means village workers). But, many times, they were the ones who were asked to pass on messages to the common public,” Ravikumar said.

In 2006-2007, a Social Reform Committee was constituted by DMK supremo M Karunanidhi and chaired by Periyarist Nannan. In this committee's very first meeting, then MLA Ravikumar had asked to ban such caste-linked undignified works including the beating of the thandora.

“When I was an MLA in 2006, in the first budget session, I had demanded a ban on such practices. Many demands were accomplished by the erstwhile CM M Karunanidhi but this demand was not fulfilled. I've been seeking a ban on this practice for the last 16 years. Now, Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin took action against the thandora practice. Tamil Nadu's chief secretary wrote a letter to the district collectors. But the government should not stop after a letter but should release it as Government Order (GO)" MP Ravikumar said.

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