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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

“Which is the lowest caste?”, ‘anti-caste’ Periyar’s University asks in exam

University named after the so-called anti-caste warrior Periyar aka EV Ramasamy has asked its students, “Which is the lower caste?” in an exam. To escape from the responsibility, the autonomous institution has claimed that professors formed the question from other universities.

Second year MA History students of Periyar University in Salem, Tamil Nadu wrote an exam on the paper Freedom Movement of Tamil Nadu: From 1800 to 1947, July 14. The tenth question in the question paper was “Which one is the lower caste belongs to Tamil Nadu” with four options Mahars, Nadara, Ezhavas and Harijans to choose from. The image of the question paper was shared on social media and went viral. Many condemned the blatant casteist question from a ‘progressive’ university. 

Nadars are now an OBC community even though they used to be treated as ‘pariahs’ as per missionaries. Toddy making was their traditional job in the past and to this day Dravidianists cite this fact to mock the community. Tamilisai Soundarrajan, the Governor of Telangana and Puducherry belongs to this community and has been mocked many times as “Panai Eri” meaning one who climbs the palm tree.

TN R Jagannathan, Vice Chancellor of the university, has claimed that the question was framed by professors from other universities and that professors from Periyar University had no role in this. But suspicions of how it could have escaped the notice of the scrutiny committee were raised. BJP state president K Annamalai, who also condemned it, said it exposes the ‘hollow ideology’ of DMK.

Ironically the ninth question was “Who gave the title Periyar to EVR?” for which Sarojini Naidu, Dr.Dharmambal and Muthulakshmi Reddy were given as options. Even Dravidian and Periyarist organizations criticized the institution. But no noise was raised about these options even though caste names are used in a question about so-called anti-caste warrior EV Ramasamy.

This perfectly sums up the Dravidian ideology, which seeks to erase the identities of marginalized communities and Brahmins by turning the former against the latter, while retaining the identity of the land-owning feudalist castes. EVR till today is identified as EV Ramasamy Nayakkar. While DMK and Dravidian organizations claim to have abolished caste from Tamil Nadu, Periyar University’s question shows that even though the caste system might have become diluted in today’s world, it is alive and kicking in a contorted form in the minds of Periyarists.

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