news Friday, December 12, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | December 12, 2014 | 05.43 pm IST The details on the alleged conversion and reconversion of Muslims and Christians at Gharvapasi , UP are still under dispute.  While the debate continues in the Lower House, one comparatively insignificant party in southern Tamil Nadu has been trying to overcome the caste barricade – by helping girls and boys belonging to different castes and religions in getting married. The Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagham (TPDK) based out in Tamil Nadu has not only announced its intention but also put words into action.  With a more month to go for 2014 to end, it has already solemnized 254 inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. On Wednesday alone it solemnized five inter-caste marriages. “We began doing this in the year 2000,” K. Ramakrishnan, the General Secretary of TPDK said. “Whenever a boy and a girl approach us asking for help, we first verify their certificates to ascertain if they have attained the legally marriageable age.” Only if the girl has completed the age of 18 and the boy 21, do they proceed. “If those who approach us are students, especially in the initial days of their collegiate education, we advice them to delay their plan of marriage because post-marriage their studies may get affected, especially that of girls,” Ramakrishnan said. The marriage is solemnized in the party office in Coimbatore district. Friends of the couple and volunteers of the party gather, and a formal exchange of the garland is done. The girl and the boy also read out undertaking that they both “shall remain like friends throughout and help and care each other.” There is no big gathering of thousands nor are there costly arrangements for celebration. The couple cut a cake and offer sweets to the small gathering. “Some parents turn up for the wedding,” Ramakrishnan says. The party volunteers also help the couple from their parents, relatives and neighbours who try to bring harm to them. “We get the help of the police. We also have lawyers who help the couples with any legal hurdle.” Tamil Nadu’s struggle against caste and religious discrimination The TPDK has not been alone in its attempt in overcoming the caste barricade. E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker - “Periyar,” the elder brother, as he was affectionately called - was as much, or, even more revered in Tamil Nadu as was the Mahatma throughout India. The TPDK itself is a faction of the original Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) which split into the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and the TPDK. Before the split, the DK party has been known to conduct similar inter-caste marriages.  When for the first time, in 1967, the DMK had come to power in the state of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) under the chief ministership of C.N. Annadurai, the first legislation it had passed was to legalize self-respect marriages - marriages that are solemnized without a priest. Then, Madras became the first state to pass such legislation. Periyar had campaigned long for self-respect and inter-caste marriages. It was to honour him that the DMK government passed this legislation as its first. However, according to reports, Tamil Nadu today is rife with incidents of honour killing. According to CPI(M) State secretary G Ramakrishnan,the state has witnessed 32 incidents of honour killing in the last 20 months. However, difference of opinion still remains in the state on allowing intercaste marriages. PMK leader S Ramadoss is one of the strongest advocators of the anti inter-caste marriage campaing in the state.

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