Violence Against The Oppressed: How Mari Selvaraj Deciphered It In Karnan


Once Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

If you re-write his quote based on the Indian Caste System, “No one is born with a tag that indicates his caste for identity. People must learn to categorise castes based on patriarchal distributions of each caste by splitting it into two major fragments: minority and superiority solely for the love of the power. If they can brainstorm to do so, for equality comes naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

The word caste is widely used for the enactment of power. All of us are aware that any paperwork or documentation of any important record emphasises the requirement for caste is very eminent. It is considered to give some reservations but in real-life scenarios, the backward community is still abandoned in deserted areas in India. Few villages are still underdeveloped and yet the government doesn’t pay any attention to these areas;

Here is a small glimpse of the breakthrough history. Dr B.R. Ambedkar along with half a million Dalits started a social reform to point out socio-cultural hegemony in India to abolish caste discrimination and the concept of untouchability. After a lot of struggles to establish social equality – to include the fifth category (Panchama) into the four-fold varna system of Hinduism (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras) into the constitution of India.

On contrary, even today the Dalits are exposed to violence. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) ‘Crime in India, 2019’ – forty-six thousand crimes were charged against Scheduled castes.


Last year, amidst a pandemic, we saw police brutality against a black man in the USA – the racial discrimination of George Floyd, even though the incident took place in United States.

All of us were devastated and the entire nation was talking about it.

And the irony is – the other states of our country weren’t aware of the police brutality that took place in Tamil Nadu. I know it is slightly out of context to bring out about police brutality but we all know what happened in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi Tamil Nadu. Cruelty and mistreatment do not need a reason. The ill-treatment needs to be addressed, isn’t it?

Mari Selvaraj’s power of articulation about the oppressed history is the reflection of on-going and forgotten histories. On the day of Eid, Amazon Prime released the movie KARNAN. With those beautiful metaphorical imageries, the depiction of police brutality concerning caste discrimination and inequality served by the government is however vaguely inspired on a real story – 1995 Kodiyankulam violence and Manjolai labourers massacre which needs to be appreciated.

Also, do you know that there was a factual error in the movie and later it was pointed out by Udhayanidhi, the son of chief minister M.K. Stalin on his Twitter? The incident happened in 1995 and not 1997. Please go read the thread.


The depiction of untouchability was made very evident through the irritability of the police officer who was not comfortable with villagers touching him. More importantly with an individual’s name – it shows how society expects a backward community to be stagnant and not allowing them to grow.

Generally, when the community’s livelihood grows there is a fit of huge jealousy and rage to destroy it. It clearly shows how the people in the community were interested to study and were seeking job offers in the government sector.

If you want to learn about the history of those two incidents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR22-P-Cprs&vl=en

Also, various theories say there existed a real-life KARNAN whose picture was sketched on the wall of a building at the very beginning of the movie.  

It is still happening. Many places still face discrimination, brutality and abusive torture from the so-called upper caste. If you pay attention to most of the recent scenarios, you could easily find a way to identify the root cause of the issue to be based on caste – The Hathras Rape Case. We have no clue what is happening around us.

There are a lot of Indian English and various language poets and writers who use literature as a tool to brief heartbreaking scenarios. But nothing has changed. We don’t know how many of them understand the work of art.

Ps: What do you think about it? What are your thoughts on the movie and situations? If you found something interesting in the movie, do comment below. Have a great day!

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