Published on: September 4, 2021
What is in news : Government in Tamil Nadu has announced the construction of a memorial in Villupuram to people killed in police firing and clashes in 1987, during a movement demanding reservation for the Vanniyar community.
- Are one of the largest and most consolidated backward communities in the state
- They had raised massive protests in the mid-1980s demanding 20% reservation in the state, and 2% in central services
- Was backed by the Justice Party as well as the Self-Respect Movement. Organised protests began with the formation of Vanniyar Sangam, headed by S Ramadoss, a medical practitioner who later founded the political party PMK.
- Agitation began in 1986 with activists sending hundreds of letters and telegrams to then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran seeking an audience.
- As there was no response from MGR and the then Rajiv Gandhi government, agitators started demonstrations in community strongholds, then went on to blockading rail and road traffic.
- The blockades were effective because community members in each village would block busy highway stretches on their village borders. They would cut revenue trees on either side of the state highway.
- One blockade in May 1986 brought traffic in the entire state to a halt, and thousands were arrested. A one-day blockade of trains followed in December 1986. The peak was in September 1987, when road traffic in northern Tamil Nadu came to a halt for an entire week.
The 1987 deaths
- The Vanniyars declared an agitation from September 17 to 23, 1987, which turned violent. At least 21 protesters were killed, mostly in police firing, and also in clashes with members of Scheduled Caste communities.
- While this shook the state establishment, there was no immediate solution. MGR died three months later, in December 1987.
- After the DMK government of M Karunanidhi came to power in 1989, the OBC quota was split into two: Backward Castes and Most Backward Castes. Vanniyars were categorised among the MBCs with 107 other communities, with 20% reservation.
- Three decades later, the then AIADMK government passed a Bill, and the current DMK government has implemented it with a Government Order ensuring 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars within the 20% MBC quota.