Periyar: Why the iconoclast social reformer matters in Tamil Nadu

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News:Recently,a political party in Tamil Nadu has posted a tweet on 46th death anniversary of Periyar which has triggered a firestorm of protests in the state.

Facts:

About E V Ramasamy Periyar:

  • E V Ramasamy Periyar was born in 1879.He was an Indian social activist and politician.

As a member of Congress Party:

  • E.V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919.He disagreed with Gandhi over the question of separate dining for Brahmin and non-Brahmin students.
  • He resigned from the party in 1925 and associated himself with the Justice Party and the Self Respect Movement which opposed the dominance of Brahmins in social life, especially the bureaucracy.

Vaikom satyagraha(1924-1925):

  • Vaikom Satyagraha was a satyagraha in Travancore,Kerala against untouchability in Hindu society.
  • The Satyagraha was aimed at securing a freedom to all sections of society through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom.
  • K. Kelappan played a dominant role in the Vaikom Satyagraha and was also the leader of the Guruvayur Satyagraha in 1932.
  • Gandhiji, Chatampi Swamikal and Sree Narayana Guru had also supported the movement.Further, Periyar also came from Tamil Nadu to support the movement.
  • The other prominent leaders in the movement include T K Madhavan, Velayudha Menon, K Neelakantan Namboothiri, T R Krishnaswami Iyer and George Joseph
  • The movement managed to open the roads around the temple for their use.The temple entry movement gained momentum after this.

Self respect movement:

  • The Self-Respect Movement was dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past.
  • It’s aim was to achieve a society where backward castes have equal human rights and encouraging backward castes to have self-respect in the context of a caste-based society that considered them to be a lower end of the hierarchy.
  • It was founded in 1925 by S. Ramanathan who invited Periyar to head the movement in Tamil Nadu.

As a President of Justice Party:

  • A political party known as the South Indian Libertarian Federation (commonly referred to as Justice Party) was founded in 1916.
  • It was formed to principally oppose the economic and political power of the Brahmin groups.
  • The party’s goal was to render social justice to the non-Brahmin groups.Periyar took over the leadership of the party in 1938.