Refugee in his own land

Print edition : February 20, 2015

Durai Guna. Photo: By Special Arrangement

The cover of Durai Guna's book "Ooorar Varaintha Oviyam". Photo: By Special Arrangement

THERE are no vociferous protests, nor any high-profile literary debates. Barring a few passing references here and there, Durai Guna, a Dalit writer from Pudukottai district, who has been ostracised from his village for writing a 40-page novella of distress, Ooorar Varaintha Oviyam, on the atrocities of caste Hindus in his village, Kulathiranpatti, has been left to fight his battles all alone.

Durai Guna, hounded by casteist elements, has been on the run since the publication of his work by Keelanda Veedu, his publishing unit, last year. “I am getting no support,” he told Frontline.

His work, a maiden attempt by a writer who has not even completed his school education, is absorbing. The narration in the local dialect is racy and conveys the pathos of the Dalit situation effectively. Durai Guna skilfully weaves into the story of the Dalit agricultural labourer Sankaran the grim realities of the various forms of untouchability and the vile grip of caste-Hindu Kallars, who exercise brute power over Dalits, who are getting empowered educationally and economically.

A new generation of Dalits has started questioning the customs and practices that discriminate against them, leading to tension and violence, common phenomena today in Tamil Nadu villages. In Durai Guna’s work, there is a reference to sami pillai (God’s child), which is one of the “controversial” issues in Perumal Murugan’s Madhorubagan, but in a different context . Here it is a child born out of wedlock who has survived after all the other elder children had been lost. Such children are called sami pillai in the Pudukottai area. The novella is full of such references and incidents of contemporary relevance. It assumes an interesting significance because it explains how political parties function in villages. The presence of the “hundi-carrying” party—referring to the CPI(M), to which Durai Guna is affiliated to—among village Dalits irks caste Hindus, who castigate Dalit elders for allowing their youth to join a communist party.

“But when I and my family were banned from entering the village after the publication of my book, no one, not even from my own party, came forward to help me. Today, I am a refugee in my own land, running away from groups that might harm me and my family. I was beaten up on Deepavali day last year when I went to my village after the intervention of the Madras High Court. Neither the district administration nor the police helped me,” Guna said in a distressed voice.

Another writer from Pudukottai district who is facing social boycott is Ma. Mu. Kannan. His novels have allegedly offended people in his village. The row over Perumal Murugan’s work has eclipsed the sufferings of Guna and Kannan, who are trying to make themselves heard.

Ilangovan Rajasekaran

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