Activists in Tamil Nadu – the southernmost state of India – are part of an unusual form of anti-gambling protest. The activists, members of the political organization Thanthai Periyar Dravidian Kazhagam (TPDK), claim to have sent human ashes to their governor Ravindra “RN” Ravi.
According to TPDK, the packets sent to Ravi contain ashes taken from the cremations of four individuals who died by suicide. The rest of the postal ash is representative of the other 38 deaths which TPDK attributes to gambling on online rummy.
Gambling is subject to strong regulation the world over, and to equally strenuous debates about that regulation. However, few debates have gotten quite as strange as this one in Tamil Nadu.
Ashes to ashes
India’s approach to online gambling is very similar to the approach of the US. India’s federal government has no law regulating or prohibiting gambling, which means it is up to the 28 states and eight territories to set their own rules.
Online gambling is explicitly legal in Goa, Daman, and Sikkim, while several other states have explicitly outlawed it. In areas where the local government has not established laws for or against online gambling, players may be able to access grey market sites that are legal but unregulated.
The new law would ban games of chance (as opposed to skill) when played for money.
Tamil Nadu’s legislative branch drafted and approved a law banning online gambling in October 2022. The new law would ban games of chance (as opposed to skill) when played for money. Governor Ravi has not signed the bill into law yet, sending it back to the house for amendments on March 8.
TPDK spokespeople claim that the 42 suicides can be blamed on this period of delay in approving the law. TPDK is a pro-Dravidian party (a party which aims for the Dravidian-speaking states to secede from India and form a new nation) with a reputation for headline grabbing protests. This protest is certainly of that category.