|Born||17 August 1962
Anganur, Tamil Nadu, India
Thirumavalavan or Thol. Thirumavalavan (Tamil: தொல்.திருமாவளவன், born 17 August 1962), is a Dalit activist, Member of Parliament in 15th Lok Sabha and the current President of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party), a Dalit political party in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. He rose to prominence in the 1990s as a Dalit leader, and entered politics in 1999. His political platform centres around ending the caste-based oppression of the Dalits, which he argues can best be achieved through reviving and reorienting Tamil nationalism. He has also expressed support for Tamil nationalist movements and groups elsewhere, including Sri Lanka.
Thirumavalavan was the second child of Tholkappian (Ramasamy) and Periyammal, and was born in the village of Anganur in Perambalur District in Tamil Nadu, India. His father had studied up to the eighth grade, while his mother remained uneducated. He has a sister and three brothers, but he was the only member of his family who went on to higher education after completion of his schooling. He initially studied chemistry, and went on to do a masters degree in Criminology, before studying law at Madras Law College. He then began working in the government's Forensic Department as a scientific assistant.
He began growing interested in politics in 1982, when he was still a student, in reaction to reports from refugees of Sri Lankan military atrocities against Tamils in Sri Lanka. He began holding rallies and organised boycotts and conferences to support the Sri Lankan cause. He ran around Madras Law College, but failed . This, he alleged, was due to his being a Dalit. The incident led to his meeting and becoming acquainted with politicians from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a major political party in Tamil Nadu.
In 1988, when working for the government's Forensic Department in the southern city of Madurai, he met Malaichamy, the Tamil Nadu state convenor of the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), an organisation that fought for the rights of Dalits. The next year, following Malaichamy's death, Thirumalavan was elected the leader of the DPI. He designed a new flag for the organisation in 1990. As part of his work, he also began visiting Dalit villages in the Madurai region, and began learning about the problems faced by Dalits. The killing of two Dalits in 1992, he says, made him more militant. Against the background of increasing Dalit assertiveness, he emerged as one of two major Dalit leaders in Tamil Nadu, with a large base of grassroots support, particularly in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.
The DPI boycotted elections until 1999 general elections. Thirumavalavan allied with G. K. Moopanar's 'Tamil Maanila Congress' and represented the Third Front. The party contested in the Parliamentary constituencies of Chidambaram and Perambalur. Thirumavalavan contested in Chidambaram, and managed to poll 2.25 lakh votes in his debut elections.
In 2001 state elections Viduthalai Chiruthaigal allied with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and contested 8 seats. Thirumaa was elected from Mangalore Constituency to State Legislative Assembly. Thirumavalavan contested once again from Chidambaram in 2004 general elections, this time with Janata Dal (United) and polled 2.57 lakh votes and lost by a low margin.
He joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance in the 2006 elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. His party was recognized by the Election Commission of India as a registered political party on 2 March 2006. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi contested in 9 seats in Tamil Nadu and 2 seats in Puducherry. The party won 2 of them: Durai Ravikumar won from Kattumannarkoil, and Selvaperunthagai from Mangalore constituency.. In the 2009 general election, Thirumavalavan was elected to Parliament from the Chidhambaram Lok Sabha constituency.
Thirumalavan's politics are grounded in a retheorisation of Tamil nationalism, which seeks to turn it into a force for the elimination of the caste system. Oppression of Dalits, he says, is institutionalised in India, including Tamil Nadu. Although the Dravidian parties which dominate the politics of Tamil Nadu are ideologically committed to the eradication of the caste system, Thirumavalavan argues that they have in practice drifted away from the original ideals of the Dravidian movement. Their policies, he says, have mainly benefitted the middle castes, and had actually led to an increase in the oppression of Dalits, with the middle castes replacing the Brahmins as the oppressor. Dalits cannot and should not expect much help from the Dravidian parties.
The solution, according to Thirumavalavan, lies in Tamil nationalism. Caste oppression, he says, can only be ended by building resistance from below, through appealing to Tamil sentiments, as happened in the early days of the Dravidian movement under Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. If a properly Tamil government is formed in Tamil Nadu, he says, caste oppression will immediately disappear.
Thirumalavan is also a staunch critic of Hindu nationalism and, in particular, Hindutva. Hindutva, to Thirumavalavan, is the essence of the oppressive Indian state. Hindutva, he argues, has through religion worked to homogenise Tamil society with that of northern India. This, he says, has led to Tamil losing its identity. Ethnic Tamil nationalism, in his view, is essential to combat Hindutva. Not unexpected is the fact that he is a Christian himself. One wonders whether that has colored his opinions about the Hindutva philosophy.
Thirumavalavan's views on the importance of the Tamil identity have also led him to strongly support Tamil secessionist groups in Sri Lanka, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant secessionist group who are formally banned as a terrorist organisation in India. He has criticised India for assisting the Sri Lankan army during the Sri Lankan military operations against the LTTE in 2008 and 2009, and has called upon the government of Tamil Nadu to take steps to safeguard the Tamils of Sri Lanka. On 15 January 2009 he started a hunger fast near Chennai (Maraimalai Adigal Nagar) for the cause of Srilankan Tamils. After four days, on 19 January he called off the fast, saying that it had had no effect on the Indian government, and calling for a hartal in its place.
His books in Tamil include 'Aththumeeru' (Trangress), 'Tamizhargal Hindukkala?' (Are the Tamils, Hindus?), 'Eelam Enral Puligal, Puligal Enral Eelam' (Eelam means Tigers, Tigers means Eelam), 'Hindutuvathai Veraruppom' (We Shall Uproot Hindutva), 'Saadhiya Sandharpavaadha Aniyai Veezhtuvom' (We Shall Defeat the Casteist Opportunist Alliance).
Two of his books have been published in English by Stree-Samya Books, Kolkata: Talisman: Extreme Emotions of Dalit Liberation (political essays written for 34 weeks in the India Today magazine's Tamil edition) and Uproot Hindutva: The Fiery Voice of the Liberation Panthers (contains 12 of his speeches).
In his first film 'Anbu Thozhi' (Lady Love), directed by L. G. Ravichandran, Thirumavalavan had a guest appearance as a Tamil militant leader in Sri Lanka. Thirumavalavan has since been cast in the leading role of a film titled 'Kalaham' (Mutiny). He plays the character of Balasingham, a law college professor, which is being directed by Mu Kalanchiyam. This will be his second film. He also made a cameo appearance in Mansoor Ali Khan's 'Ennai Paar Yogam Varum'.