Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:
History [Paper-I]: Modern Indian History significant events, personalities and issues
The distasteful tweet on Periyar by leader of a political party on his 46th death anniversary has triggered a firestorm of protests in Tamil Nadu.
Who was E V Ramasamy ‘Periyar’?
- Born in 1879, Periyar is remembered for the Self Respect Movement to redeem the identity and self-respect of Tamils.
- He envisaged a Dravida homeland of Dravida Nadu, and launched a political party, Dravidar Kazhagam (DK).
- Periyar started his political career as a Congress worker in his hometown Erode.
- After failing to bend the Congress to his view, Periyar 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.
- The Justice Party had a decade earlier advocated reservation for non-Brahmins in the bureaucracy and, after coming to power in the Madras Presidency, issued an order to implement it.
- Periyar’s fame spread beyond the Tamil region during the Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924, a mass movement to demand that lower caste persons be given the right to use a public path in front of the famous Vaikom temple.
- In 1925, the Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu) Congress passed a resolution unanimously praising E. V. Ramasami’s contribution to the Vaikom Satyagraha and hailing him as the Vaikom Veerar (Vaikom Hero) in the Kanchipuram Session.
Legacy of Periyar
- During the 1920s and 30s, Periyar combined social and political reform, and challenged the conservatism of the Congress and the mainstream national movement in the Tamil region.
- He reconstructed the Tamil identity as an egalitarian ideal that was originally unpolluted by the caste system, and counterposed it against the Indian identity championed by the Congress.
- Periyar stands for a politics that foregrounded social equality, self-respect, and linguistic pride.
- As a social reformer, he focused on social, cultural and gender inequalities and his reform agenda questioned matters of faith, gender and tradition.
- He argued that women needed to be independent, not mere child-bearers, and insisted that they be allowed an equal share in employment.
- The Self Respect Movement that he led promoted weddings without rituals, and sanctioned property as well as divorce rights for women.
- He appealed to people to give up the caste suffix in their names, and to not mention caste. He instituted inter-dining with food cooked by Dalits in public conferences in the 1930s.
- Over the years, Periyar has transcended the political divide as well as the faultlines of religion and caste, and come to be revered as Thanthai Periyar, the father figure of modern Tamil Nadu.