All corporates will purchase Jammu and Kashmir: VCK president Thol Thirumavalavan

Courtesy Thol Thirumavalavan
02 September, 2019

Thol Thirumavalavan is the president of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, or VCK, a political party in Tamil Nadu, and a member of parliament from the state’s Chidambaram constituency. He rose to prominence in the 1990s as a Dalit leader and unsuccessfully contested the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, before winning in 2009 from Chidambaram. He was elected to the parliament for the second time in 2019. His party is presently in alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK. Before joining electoral politics, he was a leader of the Dalit Panther Iyyakkam, or the Dalit Panther Movement, which later turned into the VCK.

In a conversation with Sreerag PS, an editorial intern at The Caravan, Thirumavalavan discussed the government’s recent moves in Kashmir and the dangers of eroding India’s federal structure. “Hindu Hindi Hindustan, BJP is working only for this agenda,” he said. “Nationalism doesn't mean destroying all other plurality in the country.”

Sreerag PS: How do you evaluate the government’s recent decision to effectively nullify Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir?
Thol Thirumavalavan: Our party stand is in opposition to it. They didn’t even bring it to the notice of the parliament. They brought it and immediately took it for discussion on the topic. This is autocratic, undemocratic and totally unconstitutional. We have no power to force Kashmir to join India—that means we have no power to ask them to lose their special status, neither do we have the power to repeal or amend the Article [370]. This is really a historical betrayal, not only of the people of Kashmir, it is totally against the constitution. This is the agenda of RSS and all other Sangh Parivar organisations. Now they have their own strength in Lok Sabha and even in Rajya Sabha, so they did this autocratically without considering the feelings and aspirations of opposition parties. I oppose this.

We are part of the DMK alliance in Tamil Nadu, so on the tenth of [August], we had a meeting with all DMK-allied parties and passed a resolution against the [Narendra] Modi government regarding the Kashmir issue. On behalf of our party VCK, we are going to convene a demonstration against the Modi government on this issue. Amit Shah says that we have repealed Article 370 and Article 35A, so anyone can go to Jammu and Kashmir and buy the land. What is this? Why are you opening the door to everyone?

SPS: At a recent event in Chennai, to mark BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, you delivered a speech in which you said that the government’s moves in Kashmir have “opened doors and spread the red carpet to welcome Adanis and Ambanis.” What did you mean?
TT: To speak frankly, the Modi government is only meant for corporates and multi-national companies. Modi is a product of corporates. They are bound to do everything only for the welfare of corporates and MNCs. This decision is not meant for people of India, it is meant only for the corporates. So, definitely, within a couple of years, all corporates will purchase Jammu and Kashmir—they will dominate, they will invest and will suck all the minerals and all natural resources from there.

SPS: In that speech, you also said that the central government is bringing projects such as the Kudankulam nuclear plant because Tamil Nadu does not have the protection of something like Article 370. Could you elaborate?
TT: It is only because we believe in the federal system in the country that we are admitting all programmes and schemes in every state from the union government, so they can invest and do anything in the name of federal system. In all the bills they have brought into both houses in this last session [of parliament], everything is against the state rights, which is against the federal system. The NIA bill [The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill], the RTI bill [the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill], The Dam Safety Bill—all these things are against state welfare.

The bills that are brought to the houses are not only against Jammu and Kashmir—the union government is working against all the states. They want to monopolise everything—“one nation, one culture”; “one nation, one exam”; “one nation, one ration card”; “one nation, one code”—that is their next step. After that they will move again to the Ram temple issue, so they want to make modern India into a sanatan India [referring to an orthodox Hindu India], they are bringing our nation two thousand years back. Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar had dreamed to make India free from caste and religion, without any sanatan ideologies. But the Modi government is working for the RSS agenda. They are calling it a New India, [but] they are actually making an olden sanatan India.

SPS: Do you think the government’s decisions on Kashmir hinder the federal system of India?
TT: Yeah, definitely. It is a great disaster to the Indian constitution and, of course, it is against federalism, because here the ruling party has to discuss with all the opposition parties before passing the bill [referring to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, which split the state into two union territories]. They never bothered about the stand of any opposition parties like the Congress, the DMK, the Left parties, VCK and other allied parties. We voted against it, but they didn’t bother about it, so they passed [the bill] and won their agenda.

SPS: How do you and your party respond to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supporting the government’s Kashmir decisions?
TT: This is actually really pathetic, because except AIADMK, all other Lok Sabha members from Tamil Nadu oppose Modi’s anti-constitutional decision. For them, there is no chance at all—they have no other option, they have to do whatever BJP wants. They are running their state government in Tamil Nadu with the support of the BJP and the RSS. They have only one member in the Lok Sabha. So in both houses, they are supporting all efforts of the Modi government.

SPS: Are you saying that Tamil Nadu state government is controlled by the BJP and RSS?
TT: Yes absolutely, that is true.

SPS: What do you think we can expect from the BJP-RSS combine’s influence in Tamil Nadu?
TT: One religion that is Hindu, one language that is Hindi and one nation that is Hindu Rashtra. So, Hindu Hindi Hindustan, BJP is working only for this agenda. They are not here for the real development of our nation, this is not constructing new India. Nationalism doesn’t mean destroying all other plurality in the country. Their nationalism means compelling Tamils to lose their identity, to not allow Keralites to [practice] their culture. We have to maintain the pluralism in our country with the federal system. Real federalism is nationalism. Federalism means pluralism. But the Modi government and RSS are thinking that one nation, one culture is nationalism.

SPS: The Bahujan Samajwadi Party has voted in support of Article 370, saying that Ambedkar was against it. How do you respond to that?
TT: It is true that Ambedkar didn't agree with this special status to Jammu and Kashmir. His stand was that the Buddhists and Hindus who live mostly in Jammu and Ladakh, they can join with India, and the people in the Kashmir Valley, who are mostly Muslims, can join with Pakistan. So, he advised his contemporaries, like Jawaharlal Nehru and sardar Vallabhai Patel, “Don't make complication again and again regarding the Kashmir issue, we can do the referendum only for the Kashmir Valley people who are Muslims, whether they want to join with India or Pakistan.” He believed that Jammu people and Ladakh people definitely will join with India. He did not have the mindset to conceal this complication by making special status.

The Sangh Parivar and the BJP are taking this point in for their benefit, [but] actually he was not telling anything against Article 370 or 35A. The Sangh Parivar people are misinterpreting the ideologies of Dr Ambedkar. They are saying that Ambedkar didn’t like to join with Muslim or Christians, he only embraced Buddhism because Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism, so Ambedkar is also a Hindu leader. This is a misinterpretation of Dr Ambedkar. In such a way, they are misinterpreting all his writings and speeches. I don’t know why BSP is supporting BJP in the name of Dr Ambedkar.

SPS: How do you see the increased deployment of troops in Jammu and Kashmir?
TT: This is a kind of suppression and state terrorism. They disconnected Jammu and Kashmir from all contact with other parts of India and deployed more and more military force all over Jammu and Kashmir, and they put all mainstream leaders under arrest. They are doing [these] kinds of fascist activities. They [the people of Jammu and Kashmir] are made to be completely alienated from India. Definitely, this generation will not accept and will not agree to the stand of the Modi government. Nowadays maybe we [will] see some peace and a stable atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir, as they are suppressed and controlled by the Modi government. But actually in the future, the new generation will rise up against the Modi government and they will do it with a revolutionary approach. They will do their struggle against the Modi government. Bloodshed may be the result of this decision.

SPS: What do you think is the road ahead for the present government?
TT: They have implemented the main RSS agenda regarding Jammu and Kashmir. Their next agenda will be a common civil code and the Ram temple. The north east states like Nagaland, Assam, they also have some special status, this government will definitely take away such status. Politically, the BJP’s target is to grow their party and come into power in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. But I can say one thing—they will never succeed in their attempts to take control in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is very different from rest of India, there is no place for communal forces and caste forces in Tamil Nadu, so the BJP and RSS won’t succeed in Tamil Nadu.

This interview has been edited and condensed.