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Deliberate attempt to deny, ignore Periyar's role in Vaikom's temple entry movement

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat 

This year is the centenary year of the historic Vaikom Satyagraha. On 30 March 1924, three satyagrahis of the Indian National Congress, Kunjapi, Bahuleyan Veniyal and Govindan Panicker ( one Nair, one Pulaya and one Brahmin) started it as the first satyagrahis of the movement. Vaikom, located in the Kottayam district of Kerala, was part of the Travancore State during that period and was also a symbol of the concept of Brahminical statehood. 
The Dalit and backward communities were criminally treated with contempt and were not only prohibited to enter the temples, but also not allowed to even walk on the roads. The famous Mahadevar temple located in Vaikom was forbidden to the Avarnas. It was not only about the temple, but the entry of Shudra-Atishudras was also prohibited on all four other roads leading to the temple. In fact, in its 'Manual' or state document, Travancore was a Hindu state which was following the traditions and culture of Hinduism and perhaps this is the reason why untouchability and the dominance of Brahmins were part of the state culture here. The state linked its heritage to Parsuram, so it can be understood how rigid was the Brahminical control over culture and state power. Brahmins came there in 8th century and apart from them there were Nair and Avarna castes. Though the Nairs were powerful and also related to the Kingly class, it was the brahmins who were dictating the terms and conditions for an ideal Hindu state. According to the Travancore Manual, Adi Shankaracharya was also from here who 'uprooted' the 'Buddha Dhamma'. In the year1725, The King of Travancore dedicated the Padmanabha temple to the kingdom and claimed himself to be running the kingdom under his orders. The meaning was clear that the Travancore state would remain dedicated to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and would run according to Brahminical systems. In this period, the king insisted on simplicity and started living in a very traditional way, wasteful expenditure and royal expenses were abolished. Due to an agreement with the Dutch and later the East India Company, it was protected from attack by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Travancore State had given shelter to 25000 Brahmins who fled from Tipu's kingdom and refused to hand them over to it. The monarchy was highly religious but women also got opportunities to hold power. This was a state where the temple of Padmanabhan Swamy was a symbol of opulence and once the treasury of the state was empty, the king took a loan of five lakh rupees from the Lord with a promise that he would repay it in five years with 50% interest. Even today the Padmanabhan temple of Kerala is one of the richest temples in India. According to a report by ‘Forbs’ magazine, the value of gold ornaments present in this temple in 2015 will be more than one trillion dollars. This was the same Travancore state where Dalits lived a life of slavery and women of Nadar, Shannar, Ezhava, Pulaya, Paraya, castes did not have the right to wear blouse because the Brahminist power wanted that the women of Avarna society should not look like Brahmins and Nair women.. Fed up with caste oppression, when the women of these classes adopted Christianity, some changes began to be seen. Because the European power was now controlling it, the Maharaja gave permission of wearing the upper cloths in 1829 to the Shanar women who were Christians. As a result, other women also started wearing upper clothes thus creating a problem for the brahmanical elite of the state. But now the process of reforms which had started in the state after the arrival of the British could not stop now. Slavery was also practiced in Travancore and they were bought and sold. On May 17, 1859, the king wrote to the company government and announced the intention to abolish the slavery, although officially the state of Travancore announced the abolition of slavery on July 26, 1859, but the atrocities and exploitation of Dalits, Avarnas continued unabated because no one could question the supremacy of Brahmins.

Travancore: A brahmanical state

The princely state of Travancore was based on the caste system in South India in the same way as was the Peshwai state in Maharashtra against which Phule stood up. In Kerala, Namboodiri Brahmins had the upper hand and the rest of the Shudra Atishudra castes were considered untouchable and mainly the condition of these castes was worse than that of slaves. Contact with Europeans after their arrival in the region in 1860 increased the interest of these people, especially the Ezhava caste, towards Christianity as they started attending the schools of Christian missionaries. In 1875, the percentage of education among Ezhava males was 3.15%, which increased to 12% by 1891. Now more and more people started going to English medium schools started by the Christian missionaries. By 1875 about 20% of the Ezhavas had become Christians, which increased to 42% by 1941. In fact, Ezhava and Nadar are two very big Shudra castes in South India, which were considered untouchable at one time, but both are included in very powerful 'backward' castes in today's era. Both castes were important in the state of Travancore. After the establishment of Sreenarayan Dharma Paripalan Yogam (SNDP Yogam) in the Ezhava community in 1903, a huge campaign of social change started. Today, SNDP Yogam's schools, colleges, be it medical or engineering and grant programs for economic development of the community, with an annual budget of more than 200 crores, run all over Kerala. Sri Narayananguru has a great contribution in the socio-cultural upliftment of the Ezhava community in Kerala.
The kingdom of Travancore was a very famous and wealthy beautiful region, which included areas from present-day Kerala to areas like Kanyakumari, which is now in Tamil Nadu. Thiruvananthapuram was the capital here which the British called Trivandrum. It was a state full of natural wealth as not only beautiful mountains but also sea. The Periyar River was an important part of life for a large part of it. The royalty here was completely dedicated to 'Varnashram' religion and followed it literally. The power of Brahmins was supreme and walking of other castes especially Shudras and Ati Shudras was prohibited on their walking roads. Children from underprivileged communities could not go to schools. This emphasis on the caste system was in spite of the fact that most of the members of the royal family came after studying from well- known schools and universities in England, but were neither considering caste discrimination as injustice nor were they ready to take any decision against it.
Although people like us oppose colonialism, one fact cannot be lost sight of and that is that the coming of the British and Europeans to our country showed many effects on the society and the system which discriminated against communities and people on the basis of their birth. They might not have directly hurt India's varna system, but their arrival forced the casteist forces and their masters to change when the time came.

Congress entry at Vaikom

In fact, Vaikom's movement mainly focused on the rights of the Ezhava community and it came into national parlence due to the fact that in the 1923 session of the Indian National Congress held in Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh), party president Mohammad Ali Johar invited his representative from Travancore to speak on the issue . It was Mr T K Madhvan from Travancore state, a member of SNDP Yogam and who belonged to the Ezhava community who met Gandhi ji and thus an anti-untouchability committee was formed, headed by Mr. K. Kalepan, a Nair community, was associated with the movement from the beginning and founded the newspaper Mathrubhumi. Apart from these, Shri KP Kesava Menon also became the chief Satyagrahi of this movement. In fact, at the center of the movement was Madhavan, a disciple of Srinarayan Guru, who fought relentlessly to open the roads leading to the Vaikom temple to the Ezhavas and other Avarnas.
The special thing about Vaikom Satyagraha was that the Sikh volunteers of the Akali Dal also came here from Punjab in support of the movement and apart from them there was support from the Christian community, but after Gandhi's intervention, Akalis, Christians and Muslims made to leave the agitation. Gandhi wanted that this should remain an internal issue of Hindus only. Perhaps he had an apprehension that with the participation of people of other religions might be branded as anti-Hindu. Secondly, there was a special thing about Gandhi's politics and we can analyze it in different ways. The 'upper castes' have played a big role in every social and political ‘action’ of Gandhi. It means, if Dalits are being oppressed or there is an anti-caste movement or a campaign against untouchability, Gandhi never wanted to offend the upper castes. Same thing happened in Vaikom. He separated the rest of the people from the movement by forming a group of leaders of three communities.
Gandhi first visited Kerala in August 1920 when he was supporting the Khilafat Movement and went among the Muslims. Later he came again and stayed in Kerala from March 8 to March 19, 1925 in connection with Vaikom where the Namboodiri Brahmins clearly opposed the temple entry movement. Gandhi was made a hero for the success of the Vaikom Satyagraha, just as he became the leader of the 'peasants' for the peasant movement in Champaran and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. After all, what did Gandhi do in Vaikom that he was given credit for the success of the movement and Periyar, who made this movement successful, is not even given credit for it and many of our friends are ready to ‘acknowledge’ everyone except ‘Periyar’. Why there is so much contempt and hatred for Periyar that you don’t even want to acknowledge the role played by Periyar. This is purely intellectual dishonesty. There was hardly any statue or memorial of Periyar in the entire Travancore state. Now a statue of Periyar is there since 1991 from the time of DMK government but a memorial, it seems, has now come up. After all, why has this happened and to understand it, one has to understand the caste and class character of those who kept Gandhi and Gandhism alive. There is another tragedy of the entire Vaikom movement and that is that neither the Brahminists nor the Ezhavas are ready to listen and accept the movement against caste abolition and untouchability by Ayyankali, the biggest revolutionary personality of the Dalits in Kerala, so it seems as if Nothing happened before Vaikom and suddenly Gandhiji came to Kerala and casteism and untouchability ended.
The background of this movement has never been brought forward honestly but it is available in Periyar's writings. Giving credit for the success of the Vaikom movement to 'Gandhi' was a devious conspiracy by the Brahminical forces of South India, although later all these forces were defeated politically. It is unfortunate that Periyar strengthened the whole movement with his life, but ‘historians’ called it a success of 'Gandhi'. It is important to know that Gandhi's movement did not open the way for Dalits and Shudras to enter the temple. It was just the access to roads to Ezhva and other untouchable castes and that too that they could use only three out of four roads and the main road was still exclusively kept for the brahmins and prohibited for the untouchable communities.

Building up the movement

TK Madhavan, who was also a Congress leader and a member of the Sree Narayan Dharma Pratipalan (SNDP) Yogam, was a lawyer and had to appear in court in connection with a case. It was the birthday of the King of Travancore, so all the roads leading to the palace were decorated with flowers and Brahmins were chanting mantras for the long life of the King. The court was in the Palace Complex itself but the Brahmins did not allow Madhavan to go because he belonged to the Ezhava community. It actually made Madhavan more determined to fight against his atrocious and racist order. Srinarayan Guru had already raised his slogan against untouchability and caste discrimination, so the Ezhavas decided to organize a movement. By the way, Madhavan had started writing articles in the local newspaper ‘Deshabhimani’ about untouchability and temple entry, freedom for everyone to walk on the streets since 1917. Sree Narayan Dharma Pratipalan Yogam was established in 1903 was working for the welfare and rights of the Ezhava community. Although Madhavan belonged to the Ezhava community, his father was one of the most prosperous farmers in Travancore, yet despite his education and ability, he could not walk on the roads where dogs, cats or brahmins could walk. Ironically, his own junior who happened to be a Brahmin could walk the same road where Madhavan was denied entry to pursue his legal case. In 1921, Madhavan met Gandhiji in this context and kept his point. Madhavan got an opportunity to participate in the Kakinada Congress session in 1923 where he spoke about this issue and the Congress Party decided to take up the issue. Only after that, in March 1924, the movement for access to road was planned in Vaikom. There was an opportunity for the Congress to send a message to the public on the question of untouchability and hence the Satyagraha was planned with involvement of ‘all’ the communities. From the very beginning, Gandhiji ‘eliminated’ 'extremist' thinking on Dalits and caste question as he considered the role of upper castes important and essential in the anti-caste movement. He formed a committee in which 'progressive' Brahmins as well as Nayars were also included. At the beginning of the Satyagraha, three people tried to break the ban by walking on the road leading to the entrance of the Mahadeva temple at Vaikom. Apart from Madhavan of the Congress, Kalappan, KP Kesava Menon and George Joseph not only participated in the Satyagraha but also led it. The movement started and arrests also started. A total of 19 people were arrested till April 9, including Madhavan, George Joseph, Kesava Menon etc. After that the movement had come to a standstill. The Travancore royal family was also showing its strictness on this and the Brahmins and Nairs of the state stood by them. Sensing the seriousness of the matter, Kesava Menon and barrister George Joseph wrote a letter to Periyar, who by then was the president of the Tamil State Congress Committee and had been relentlessly fighting against untouchability and caste discrimination, requesting him to come immediately.
'You must come here and strengthen this movement, because if this does not happen, we have no other option than to apologize to the king. In such a situation, we will not suffer much loss but an important cause will be defeated. This is what we are worried about. So please come at the earliest and lead the movement.'
Regarding untouchability in Travancore State, Periyar says, 'There was a law under which Avarnas and Antyajas could not walk on the roads leading to the temple of Vaikom. For them there was a broken 'road' two or three furlongs away and they had to walk about a mile long. Many other Shudra castes like Vaniyars and Asaris also could not go there. The condition of Dalits was even more serious. Important government buildings were also built around the entrance of the Vaikom temple. No untouchable could pass through those streets even while being escorted by the officials. Porters were also prohibited from walking on those roads.’
All elements of the concepts of an ideal Hindu state were present in Travancore. A very strong example of 'Graded in Equality' analyzed by Baba Saheb is the whole system of this state in which the rules of walking on the roads were explained according to the 'law and order'. Historian and political analyst Robin Jaffrey explains : 'A Nair caste person can talk to a Brahmin but cannot touch him. An Ezhava caste person should stay 36 steps behind a Brahmin and a Pulaya 96 steps behind. An Ezhava should stay 12 steps behind a Nair and a Pulaya 66 steps behind. A stranger even further away. A Syrian can talk to, touch, but not eat with Christian Nair. Strangers can talk from far away but cannot eat or meet.
The condition of Dalits and alienated castes was like that of slaves and they were victims of terrible caste discrimination. In 1893, the revolutionary Ayankali, who came out of these castes, revolted in Travancore and one day when he tied a turban on his head, wearing good clothes, which were considered only for the upper castes in those days, sitting in a bullock cart and roaming on the streets of Travancore. Decided which was restricted to Dalits. It was as a result of Ayankali's resistance that by 1900 all roads in Travancore State were opened to Dalits, although the roads leading to the temples and temple entry were still prohibited. Due to the intervention of Mahatma Ayankali, Dalits got the right to study in schools. It is necessary to talk separately on his life struggles because more than temple entry, he talked about the entry of Dalits in education and system and also raised the question of land.

Periyar's entry into the movement

In order to strengthen the movement of Vaikom, Periyar left for Vaikom by handing over the post of President of Tamil State Congress Committee to Rajagopalachari. He felt that without going there and staying there, no movement would be strong. Anyway, Periyar was very much influenced by the programs of the Justice Party in Madras Presidency and was continuously active on the questions of social change, on the atrocities of Brahmins, eradication of superstition. In 1918, Periyar was elected President of Erode Municipality and from here his friendship with Chakravarti Rajagopalachari started. In 1919, on the suggestion of Rajagopalachari, he resigned from the post of Municipal President in Erode and joined the Congress party. He participated in the non-cooperation movement and actively participated in the anti-liquor movement. Periyar's stature was so great that by this time he was the chairman of 25 different public undertakings in the Madras Presidency and resigned from all posts to participate in Gandhiji's movement. In 1922, Periyar became the President of the Tamil Pradesh Congress. He supported the work of social transformation being done by the Justice Party in Madras Presidency, temple entry, campaign against untouchability, Dalit backward caste participation in power etc. on all questions, despite being in Congress. He hoped that Gandhiji would support the work of social change. The temple entry movement in Vaikom was also an ordeal for the Congress in this episode because this question had arisen in the Kakinada conference of 1923, but the Congress had to do politics that would not anger the upper castes, especially the Brahmins, and also solve the Dalit issue . . Both things were probably not possible at the same time.
Periyar considered this question very important and so he wrote a letter to Rajaji and left for Vaikom, entrusting him with the post of president. He knew that there are difficulties in this work and all this cannot be done only because of the local people. He reached Vaikom on 13 April 1924 . The news of his arrival had spread all over Travancore and the government staff was also ready to welcome him. Periyar reached Vaikom by boat and to his surprise, the Police Commissioner and Tehsildar were also there to receive him. It is said that the king of Travancore Sri Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma wanted to give a grand welcome to Periyar but Periyar turned it down.
Such behavior from the king of Travancore may seem surprising but Periyar tells that the king asked his officials to welcome me as he used to stay at their bungalows in Erode especially whenever he had to catch a train to Delhi and was always received warmly and with great hospitality. Perhaps this was the reason why when the king came to know that Periyar was coming there, he was given a grand welcome. Another reason for this could be that Periyar was the president of Tamil Nadu Congress and now the issue of untouchability and caste discrimination was going on a big scale, so maybe he did not want outsiders to come there and agitate on this question. At the local level, the movement had already collapsed after the main leaders were arrested as it remained localised.
Ignoring all his relationships, Periyar participated in meetings against untouchability and caste discrimination, and supported everyone's right to walk on the street and the right to worship. Periyar said, ' Such a god who becomes unholy even by the touch of untouchables is not fit to live in the temple. Such an idol should be removed and used for washing clothes.
Periyar's eloquent speech and reasoned arguments were making an impact on the people and he was being called from place to place across the state. In such a situation, it was not that the king and his Brahminist forces were troubled by his anti-untouchability and anti-Brahminism movement. Even within the Congress, there were a large number of people who were deeply disturbed by Periyar's words. Therefore, after waiting for ten days, the king imposed Section 26 in the entire area which was like Section 144 so that people could not gather at one place. The movement was growing, so Periyar also violated it to strengthen his movement and was arrested on 21 May. His entry was closed at places like Kottayam. After a month, when he was released, he again came to Vaikom and again spoke among the people, was arrested and then sentenced to four months' rigorous imprisonment. Due to the presence of Periyar , the movement was getting so strong that after his arrest, he was not given the facilities that are given to political prisoners. In all, Periyar stayed in Vaikom for 141 days and remained there till the success of the movement on 30 November 1925, in which he was serving 74 days of rigorous imprisonment. On 10 September 1924, Periyar had to go to Erode where on 11 September he was convicted in a case of treason in connection with the boycott of foreign clothes against British imperialism and other things. Later Periyar came to Varkala on 12 March 1925 where he met Gandhi and Sree Narayanaguru.
Periyar's presence breathed life into the movement and it is important to understand why. Periyar wanted to fight this question not just with sweet words but with the questions of his rights. The Justice Party had become a threat to the Congress party in South India since 1916, when it issued a non-Brahmin manifesto in the Madras Presidency. Periyar supported the Justice Party movement from the very beginning. He joined the Congress because Rajagopalachari wanted him to strengthen Gandhi's social reform movements.

Caste and untouchability as Internal matter of Hindus

Periyar was accompanied by revolutionary leader Ayamuthu from Tamil Nadu and his wife Nagammai. Periyar was the only one among the leaders who brought that movement to the end by living in Vaikom from another province. After all, what has happened that the government called 'Gandhiji' to talk to the agitators. In this context, Periyar explains, 'When the movement was getting stronger and people from different places started reaching Vaikom, many people started having 'stomach pain'. This movement was now uniting the Avarnas against the brahminical conservative forces. The king there and the upper caste Brahmin leaders of Congress also complained to Rajaji and Gandhiji. Rajaji wrote a letter to Periyar, ' Why do you want to spread chaos in other states leaving your own state? It is completely wrong of you to do so. You immediately come back from there and take care of your work here. Periyar says that by that time more than 1000 people had gathered there for the movement. The news reached Punjab and Swami Shraddhanand sent volunteers and also contributed Rs 2000. Brahmins wrote a letter to Gandhi and told that all Sikhs, Muslims, Christians etc. are participating in this movement. Rajagopalachari asked George Joseph not to participate in the movement but he did not agree. Later Gandhiji refused everyone to participate in the movement. Despite this Swami Shraddhanand came to Vaikom and extended his support to the movement. The upper caste leaders of the Congress Committee had trouble with Joseph and the Akalis coming there because they were giving strength to this movement. Disturbed by caste discrimination, a large group of Ezhavas had already converted to Christianity and were moving towards English education. With the arrival of the Sikhs, they had started providing ‘langar’ ie ‘food kitchen’ for the agitators, due to which the brahmanical forces were put under a lot of pressure. Gandhi acted as a devout Hindu and asked the non Hindus to get away from the movement. Everyone was told that this is an internal matter of Hindus yet the movement was growing with active participation of Periyar.

Did Rajaji invite Gandhi to claim the credit for the success of the Vaikom movement?

The Vaikom movement continued despite Gandhi's opposition. Joseph fully helped the movement and was even ready to be suspended from the Congress because ideologically he wanted untouchability to end. Periyar was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment by the princely state of Travancore. On 21 July 1924, when he was serving his sentence, one night news came that Raja Moolam Thirunal had died. Periyar says that when he got the news, at that time in the memory of the king, he was being given a salute of guns and the sound of guns was being heard. He started thinking, 'The king's well-wishers and Brahmins were constantly praying for our death, but their prayers had so much effect that the king passed away'. Since the new king was a minor, the power came to his mother. The new king released the political prisoners. After release, Periyar was arrested as soon as he went to Erode and it became difficult for him to go to Vaikom but the movement was now strong. The new regime was aware of the anger of the people and anyway the company was running with the help of the government which had already implemented administrative reforms. The new queen wanted a solution to this question and therefore wanted to talk to Periyar but the Diwan of the state was a Tamil Brahmin and advised the queen that she should not talk to me directly. Diwan wrote a letter to Rajagopalachari. Raja ji knew that if there would be a solution by talking to Periyar, then Periyar would get full credit for this question, so he forced Gandhi into this whole movement. Periyar says that he did not give much thought to whether someone should get the credit for solving this problem because he wanted to solve the problem. Gandhi then reached there on 8 March 1925 and stayed there till 19 March where he met Sree Narayanguru and Periyar. Then Gandhi met the Queen mother. The royal guardian Sethu Lakshmi Bai, whose son Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma was still a minor, wanted a 'solution' to this problem and therefore she met Gandhi because upper caste leaders knew that Periyar was not interested in this question and his movement will not be limited to temple entry or road entry only. Well, the queen clearly refused the entry of the avarnas/Dalits in the temple but agreed to open three of the roads around the temple for everyone. She did not agree to open the fourth one because she wanted to ensure that the Brahmins have ‘safe’ passage to the temple through it but the problem was that the queen knew it well that Periyar is the ‘problem’. She wanted to ensure that he agree to this solution of opening three sides of the roads without any question being raised about the temple entry. Periyar says, 'After meeting the Queen, Gandhi went to meet Periyar at her guest house and sought her opinion. Periyar said, “It is not a big deal to give the untouchables the right to use public roads. Although temple entry is not on the agenda of the Congress, yet it is on my agenda. But you tell the queen that at this moment, I have no intention of agitating for temple entry. I will take any decision only after the situation improves’.
Gandhi was happy with that but the roads did not open in March. It took nearly nine months for construction of new roads parallel to the earlier one on which the Dalits/Avaranas/shudras were to be allowed to walk without any discrimination, the wait for which ultimately ended in November end. Periyar was present at the victory day celebration.
Presiding over the victory celebration at Vaikom on 29 November 1925, Periyar said, 'The object of Satyagraha was not limited to using roads that dogs and pigs could use. Our aim was that public places should be open to all people equally. Therefore, it is our duty that the fight we won for the use of the roads should also be done for equal use inside the temples.
Periyar says that later the king was told that most of the people of Avarna castes are becoming either Christians or Muslims to avoid caste persecution and if their entry into the temples is prohibited then the situation may become more serious in the coming times. The opening of the roads for all was not at all a great event but an attempt to undo the injuustice against the depressed classes yet the Gandhian felt it was a ‘huge’ ‘achievement’. They say that when Gandhi ji was talking about entering the temple after meeting the queen, the queen said that she will not allow this to happen and the future prince will have to take this decision. When the king was only 12 years old, Gandhiji asked him whether the untouchables should have the right to enter the temple, then he said that when I formally take over the power, I will establish everyone's entry into the temple.

Finally after 11 years temple entry is approved

After that, the queen made a new road around the temple for Dalits, which was still not very close to the temple. Only three roads were opened. Gandhiji was 'happy with his success' and finally on 23 November 1925 the movement was called off. Three more roads were opened for Avarnas but temple entry was still restricted. On November 12, 1936, on the birthday of the new king, the doors of the temples in Travancore State were opened to all, although this was not a change of hearts, but it was also a possibility of becoming a Christian or Muslim in the future of a large population of their own state. It was a big victory because in 1806, Travancore's Diwan Velu Thampi had shot 200 youths of the Ezhava community for trying to enter this Mahadev temple. This massacre is also known as the Dalavakulam massacre. Gandhiji appreciated this decision of the king.
There was a difference in the whole approach of Gandhi and Periyar that considering it as an internal matter of Hindus, Gandhi wanted to settle the 'dispute' without making any changes, but for Periyar it was a question of human rights, in fact this fight was also of self-respect and self-respect which Later became the main point of Periyar's movement.

Irony of the Dravidian model

Periyar was a legend who unleashed the biggest attack on the Brahmanical hegemony in Tamilnadu and ensured its political success in a democratic polity. No social movement succeeded that powerfully politically as initiated by Periyar which have now rooted firmly in the state of Tamilnadu where both the ruling party as well as the main opposition groups actually claim to hail from Periyar’s ideology. Tamilnadu is called the bastion of Social justice and rationality where politics of ‘inclusion’ has taken the participation level of diverse marginalised communities to 69% in jobs and power structure. It is narrated as the success story of Dravidian movement and these days an ‘attractive’ model for many outside Tamilnadu. How is this then in the centenary year of Vaikcom movement Tamilnadu’s Dalits face the worst kind of discrimination not merely in the places of worship but also walking on roads or working as Panchayat representatives including being the elected chief of a village. Why do we hear the cases of heinous crime against Dalits and the worst nature of atrocities against them? It is a state which is competing with Uttar Pradesh on caste crime against Dalits including honour killings and the huge number of deaths of the people from manual scavenging communities while cleaning the gutter or sewage line. It is deeply painful and disgusting that the ideals for which Periyar fought so vehemently have not taken deep root in the state. The Dravidian parties used Periyar merely on his ‘anti Brahmin’ approach for the political success of backward communities while denying the same space, dignity and self respect to the Dalit communities of the state. Tamilnadu government must act and show serious concern on the issues of crime and atrocities against Dalits. No model in this country can be termed as an ideal model unless that includes the people from the most marginalised communities.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the model of social justice of Tamil Nadu has reached only the backward classes and the transfer of power in the name of non-Brahmanism has only reached in the hands of the backward classes excluding the Dalits. Backward castes have gained power by opposing Brahminism in the South, but sadly they are not ready to share the same space with Dalits. While remembering the Vaikom movement, the powerful castes are singing songs of their success and are not even ready to remember or acknowledge the struggle of Dalits. Remembering the struggle of Vaikom, we cannot forget the struggle of Dalit communities particularly the struggles of Mahatma Ayankali or Pandit Iyothidas . It would also be dangerous to limit the struggle of Vaikom only to the Ezhava community and more importantly, from the struggle of Vaikom, the Brahminist casteist thinking of Travancore state or princely state can understand how dangerous any state based on religion is for Dalit backward and women. It happens. Those who believe in secular politics and democracy should take information about these movements and such state power so that we can recognize its dangers and be alert for the future. The brahmanical historians and commentators ignored the immortal role played by Periyar’s in the struggle at Vaikom but it is equally essential for all to remember and celebrate the great role played by Sreenarayan Guru, Ayotheedass and Mahatma Ayyankali.
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By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

New MVA-INDIA MPs asked to raise Maharashtra milk farmers' demand

By Our Representative  All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national president Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS Maharashtra general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale have asked three newly-elected MPs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-INDIA) from the milk belt of Maharashtra Dr Amol Kolhe (NCP),  Bhausaheb Wakchaure (SS), and Nilesh Lanke (NCP), to take up the cause of milk farmers of Maharashtra in Parliament.  After congratulating them on their resounding victory over their BJP-NDA rivals, the AIKS leaders apprised them of the milk farmers struggle which is intensifying in the state under the leadership of the AIKS and the Milk Farmers Joint Struggle Committee, and requested them to support it. All three MPs agreed not only to support, but also to take the initiative in this struggle, an official AIKS communique claimed. Farmers in Maharashtra are currently getting as low as Rs 24-27 per litre for cow milk, which is being sold in the market for Rs 56-60 per litre, the AIKS leaders noted. The low price to farmer

Report suggests Indian democracy 'hasn't achieved' equitable economic decentralization

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram  The news that the current economic inequality in the country is worse than during British rule is unsettling. This suggests the harsh reality that our democracy has not achieved equitable economic decentralization. A recent report by Thomas Piketty and three other economists reveals shocking findings: in 2023-24, the top 1% of the wealthiest people in India hold 40% of the nation's wealth, with a 22.6% share in income.