'Tamils are divided by caste, accept it!': Angry Pa Ranjith on Anitha’s Dalit identity
Ever since S Anitha of Ariyalur committed suicide, depressed about being denied a medical seat due to NEET and despite scoring high marks in Class XII, there has been a debate on whether her Dalit identity is relevant.
Social media users have criticised media houses for calling Anitha a 'Dalit girl', insisting that she should be called only a 'Tamil girl' since the whole of Tamil Nadu is 'united' in opposing the NEET exam. Several felt that calling her a 'Dalit' was creating casteist divisions in the movement.
However, at a press meet to protest Anitha's death, director Pa Ranjith tore into such assertions. Ranjith, who shot to national fame with the Rajinikanth starrer Kabali, is from a Dalit family himself and his films are infused with a strong awareness of caste politics.
Speaking at the meet, an angry Ranjith said in response to director Ameer, "We are living as Dalits only. Villages still have segregation...separate spaces for Dalits. I still live in a cheri. Show me one village that doesn't have this!"
In a video of the press meet, Ameer is seen ‘clarifying’ that what he had earlier was that while caste discrimination is a reality, some of them have gone past it and needn't look at the issue from the same lens, to which Ranjith says, “No, we have not. None of us have gone past it.”
Director Ameer tried to restrain an angry Ranjith by saying, "This is a 2000 year rage...", but Ranjith took the mic back from him and said, "You all have to agree with this. For how much longer are you going to be in denial? For how much longer are you going to keep saying 'Tamil, Tamil' without accepting this?"
As some from the audience shouted out their agreement with him, Ranjith said, "Every street has a caste. There are so many castes! Tamilians are divided by caste. Accept this! Tamilians are divided by caste!"
Others onstage tried to calm him down but Ranjith was clearly not in a mood to give in. Ameer tried to interject, saying they have to look at the issue positively but Ranjith cut in and said, "People are making this into a debate - whether it's necessary to say she's a Dalit or not. Let us go to each and every village, each and every street, and see for ourselves how we're divided by caste. How many people here rent homes to Dalits? How many ask what meat you eat?"
To applause from the audience, Ranjith said that at least at this junction, after Anitha's death, we must accept that caste exists.
Ameer noted that what the audience witnessed onstage might be used by the media and others to portray the image that they were divided in their ranks.
"We do disagree during such debates but we hug each other when we leave," he said.
Ameer agreed that there was much truth in what Ranjith had said and that we must discuss further how to rectify this at least in coming generations.
Ranjith finally ended by saying, "It's very simple. I just want this society which is divided by caste to have no castes at all."
Watch video here: