Print edition : August 07, 2015

Gopal Ramesh. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Interview with K. Gopal Ramesh of the Kongunadu Jananayaga Katchi.

K. Gopal Ramesh, 35, is the State convener of the Kongunadu Jananayaga Katchi (KJK). Before joining the KJK, he was the Erode urban youth secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kongu Ilaignar Peravai (TNKIP), led by U. Thaniyarasu, MLA. Yuvaraj, the main accused in the Gokul Raj murder case, was its youth wing leader at Sankagiri.

Ramesh is proud of the fact that he is a Kongu Vellalar, and that was also why he joined the KJK when G.K. Nagaraj launched the party after leaving the now-defunct Anaithu Samoothaya Padukappu Peravai (All Communities Protection Committee).

Ramesh told Frontline over phone that the Kongu people “do not endorse Yuvaraj’s thuggish acts”, and added that they would also never accept anyone “tinkering with our culture”.

Excerpts from the interview:

Do you endorse the murder of a youth because he loved a girl from your caste?

We are all pained at the unfortunate death of the Dalit youngster Gokul Raj. If it is a murder, then there is no justification for such a brutal act. Anyhow, a detailed investigation alone will bring out the truth behind the death. However, I personally feel sad about that [murder].

What is wrong in Gokul Raj falling in love with that girl? It is an affair between two adults.

As a Dalit, he [Gokul Raj] should have understood his birth-based limitations. As we respect other castes, and never interfere, they also must respect ours. We all should maintain the “Lakshman rekha” for a peaceful coexistence. We in the Kongu Vellalar caste take a lot of pride in our women. The girls in our families are our “princesses”. We nourish them and pamper them since they are the ones who nourish our traditions and customs. How could you expect us to get this sullied?

You literally force women to remain babysitters in the guise of upholding tradition?

No. You have misunderstood. This enterprising and hard-working social group has remained successful among various OBCs [Other Backward Classes] since our women virtually run our families with whatever resources the family can afford, besides saving money judiciously. The culture of saving [money] starts from the Kongu region. My 75-year-old father milks cows every day and sells the milk to earn Rs.350 a day. My 64-year-old mother, too, earns by selling buttermilk and curd. Our families are close-knit and we jealously guard our social and cultural ethos.

At a time when girls’ education is emerging as a social necessity, your thinking is a skewed one.

Education is necessary for a social group to go forward. But while pursuing that objective, we should not leave behind the values society has taught us over the years. I consider that education for a girl beyond the age of 19 pollutes her and her family. It gives them [girls and their parents] a false sense of financial security and a high social status. But, unfortunately, what they fail to realise is that it [education] threatens the very existence of our caste’s pride and decorum. We are spreading the message of “caste purity” and individual discipline among our youngsters.

You sound archaic.

No. What I am trying to say is that girls’ education should be encouraged only up to the age of 18. They should be married off then. Those who wish to pursue higher studies can do so after getting married.

Today, when girls from our caste are getting educated, our boys are concentrating on business and money. They are unwilling to get married in time saying that they need to earn more. We have been telling the boys to marry our girls first and earn so that unpleasant incidents such as the one involving Gokul Raj can be prevented.

You can call me a retrograde or whatever term you wish to. I am not justifying the death of Gokul Raj. But at the same time, we will never permit any act that pollutes us. I, for that matter we, will never compromise on our caste identity.

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