DMK alliance candidate’s speech against Dalits surfaces, activists demand action

In the video, Kongunadu Desiya Makkal Katchi’s candidate Suriamoorthi is heard comparing lowered caste people to “beggars,” and threatening to kill Dalit men who fall in love with dominant caste Gounder women.
KMDK candidate Suriamoorthi
KMDK candidate SuriamoorthiFacebook
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Tw: Descriptions of violence

An old video of Kongunadu Desiya Makkal Katchi (KMDK) leader S Suriamoorthi, threatening to kill lowered caste men who fall in love with Gounder women, has resurfaced in the wake of his candidature in Namakkal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Gounders are a dominant caste group categorised under Other Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu. The seven-minute video seems to have been shot several years ago, during a Gounder caste gathering in Namakkal. The clip, now widely criticised, began doing the rounds on social media after the KMDK announced Suriamoorthi as its Namakkal candidate on Monday, March 18.

In the video, Suriamoorthi can be heard making several inflammatory and casteist statements, comparing people from lowered castes to “beggars.” He goes on a tirade advocating foeticide alongside the killing of pregnant women from lowered castes, if they “even considered” marrying Gounder women to advance economically. He then proceeds to talk about the ‘achievements’ of the Gounder community, claiming that they excelled in agriculture, trade, and worked hard to climb the economic ladder. 

Suriamoorthi also says in the video that if he and his party members discovered a Gounder woman in a relationship with a lowered caste man, they would bring her back and “advise” her. He recalls an incident where he “advised” a woman to forget about her partner, failing which her partner would be “slaughtered on the Pallipalayam bridge.” The KMDK candidate also insinuates in the clip that Gounder women who get jobs will “elope” with a man from a lowered caste within six months of her employment. 

In the video, Suriamoorthi also brags about the party’s youth wing members who would not hesitate to indulge in violence to save the Gounder community. “When I was in prison, I came across nearly 200 members from our community who were wrongly jailed. If I give them orders, they will not hesitate to even commit murders. I am not misleading the youth, I want our men to marry the women in our community and live happily. Tell this to your state intelligence. I am warning that there will be many murders in Kongunadu [western districts in Tamil Nadu including Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Dharamapuri, among others],” he can be heard saying.

Amid loud applauses, Suriamoorthi further thunders, “Give lowered caste people a place to live, food, and clothes. But do not give them laws that can be misused. If you give them such laws, we [the KDMK] will have to take the law in our hands and there will be a law and order situation. You [referring to lowered caste people] get a lot of subsidies in the name of your caste, why are you offended if we refer to you by your caste name?”

The video had received severe backlash from several journalists, writers, and activists. 

Dalit writer and activist Shalin Maria Lawrence shared a clip of Suriamoorthi’s speech, questioning why he was given a seat as a part of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive (INDI) Alliance. The KMDK is part of the INDI Alliance led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the ruling party in the state. Notably, one of the allies of the DMK for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections is the anti-caste party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), led by MP Thol Thirumavalavan. 

“Does Congress think that Dalits in Tamil Nadu should vote for the Congress alliance to get killed after the elections? Dalits have 26 percent vote, sir Rahul Gandhi. Does Congress think they can save the constitution by allowing people to commit ethnic genocide on us? How is this even justified?” Shalin asked.

Journalist TN Raghu meanwhile brought to attention the recent instance of caste killing in Erode, where the father of a woman tried to kill her husband for being from a lowered caste, but killed his sister instead. “The man’s 15-year-old sister was killed. Isn’t the caste fanatic speaking in the video responsible for this murder? How can we accept him as a candidate from Namakkal? How is the DMK, a party that preaches social justice to everyone, not aware of this?” Raghu questioned.

As the controversy garnered momentum, YouTube channel OneIndia Arasiyal published a conversation with Sooriamoorthi on March 19, in which he can be heard refusing to take responsibility for his inflammatory speech. “It is false information and it has been done because I am contesting in the elections. I did not make that speech. They [the opposition] are doing this out of fear of defeat. This is 100% false. I am not a caste fanatic. I am in politics to work for the welfare of all people without taking into account their caste,” he claimed.

When asked about his statements on love, Suriyamoorthi said love has existed since the time of the Puranas, and that he had nothing against it. However, he did not specifically address the anchor’s question on intercaste love, and stood his ground about the video being false. 

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