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Source: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.


16 spotlight
MAY 10-16, 2015

Clash of Ideologies
:: Sandhya Ravishankar
In Periyar country,

f Tamil Nadus recent history is April, Tamil New Years day,
rich in progressive ideas, it is in says Veeramani. By 8 am the
large part due to Periyar EV Ra- Hindutva groups whole function was over.
masamy Naickers rationalist An incensed state govern-
self-respect movement. Thanks
and rationalist ment called for a stay on allow-
to this social reformer, the Ta- atheist Dravidians ing this function to continue.
mil populace has grown up Despite it being a court holiday
with and imbibed liberal ideals go head to head on account of Tamil New Years
such as the struggle against
Brahmin hegemony, social jus-
ahead of the day, a new bench was called
and the matter heard at the
tice for the depressed classes, 2016 elections residence of one of two judges
equality of men and women, of the Madras High Court, a
self-respect marriages without move which Veeramani calls
thali or mangalsutra, which highly unusual. The advo-
was seen as a symbol of slavery cate general appeared on be-
of women, anti-Hindi agita- half of the state and strongly
tions, atheism and opening the pushed for a stay on the event,
sanctum sanctorum of temples citing law and order issues. The
to all castes, to name a few. two-judge bench ordered a
But now Periyar country is stay. But by then, the thali re-
seeing a sudden rise is vitriol as moval ceremony was over. The
a clash of extremes takes place, beef lunch was parcelled out to
vying for a connect with the the participants and everyone
youth of Tamil Nadu. went home.
The trouble began in early Hindutva outfits began iso-
March, with a private Tamil tel- lated protests in various parts of
evision channel airing a promo the state soon after. A small
regarding a recorded debate on group of Shiv Sena men at-
whether the Thali is a boon or tempted to enter Periyar Thi-
a bane for women. On March 7, was palpable. Ninety years af- The Chennai police, fearing dal, headquarters of the DK in
fringe pro-Hindu outfit Hindu ter the Dravidian self-respect clashes, refused to give permis- Chennai, to protest. A scuffle
Munnani protested outside the movement was launched by sion to the DK to conduct the ensued between the two groups
channels headquarters. A day Periyar, the DK and its ideology planned ceremony. The DK and police resorted to a mild
later, the Hindu Makkal Katchi appeared to be facing a test of moved the Madras High Court lathicharge to impose order.
joined the protests and man- relevance, however slight. The the hearing went on until 9 People from the red-light
handled a crew member of the DK decided to cock a snook at pm on April 13. The Court fi- area were brought in for the
channel. On March 12, a low in- two ticklish issues by con- nally passed orders by 9.30 pm thali removal ceremony, said
tensity tiffin box bomb was ducting a thali removal func- that night the thali removal H Raja, national secretary of
hurled at the office in Chennai tion, followed by a beef ban- ceremony and beef feast could the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
in the wee hours of the morning quet as a symbolic protest finally take place. and a volatile pro-Hindu voice
allegedly by a fringe outfit against the beef ban in Maha- DK members knew that ei- in the state. This statement add-
called the Hindu Youth Sena rashtra and Haryana. ther the government or the Hin- ed fuel to the fire.
this, despite the channel calling No one has any right to curb dutva groups would head right Between April 20 and April
off telecast of the show. freedom of speech and expres- back to the court the next day 21, three Brahmin priests had
sion, says K Veeramani, presi- and try to get a stay on the func- been attacked in Chennai by a
Showdown Time dent of the DK. We are not a tion. They decided to hold the lesser known arm of the DK.
By this time, the buzz of anger fascist country. That is why we function much earlier. We The Dravidar Viduthalai Ka-
within the Dravidar Kazhagam decided to conduct this, he started the thali removal cer- zhagam cut the sacred thread of
(DK) and like-minded groups said. emony at 6.45 am on the 14th of these priests as they were walk-

Statue of Periyar at
The Dravidian Movement Periyar Thidal, Chennai

& Political History First file signed by

CN Annadurai as CM
DMK wins a
majority in of Tamil Nadu was
Periyar EV Self-respect Madras that of Hindu
Ramasamy marriages Periyar Periyar Marriage (Madras
Naicker founded held without takes over renames Justice Amendment) Act,
the Dravidian thali as president Party as Dravida 1967, introducing
CN Annadurai
P Theagaraya movement & the (mangalsutra) of Justice Dravidar Munnetra Section 7A, permitting
becomes chief
Chetty & TM Nair self-respect and without a Party Kazhagam (DK), Kazhagam Suyamariyathai
found the movement Brahmin withdraws (DMK) formed (self-respect) and
Justice Party priest party from to contest Seerthiruttha
electoral elections (reformist) marriages

1917 1925 1929 1938 1944 1949 1967 1967

spotlight 17
MAY 10-16, 2015

Biography of Periyar:
The Father of in fact waned over time. Political
hawks say for the first time voters to-
Dravidian Movement day have little connect with Periyar
Real name: EV Ramasamy Naicker and are more god-fearing and capital-
ist in nature than the Dravidian lead-
Born: September 17, 1879
ers would like them to be. Caste poli-
Birthplace: Erode, Tamil Nadu tics played by Dravidian leaders from
Married 13-year-old Nagammai in 1898 the DMK and the AIADMK have gone
against the grain of the movement
Renounces family life and went to Kashi (Varanasi) launched by Periyar in the mid-1920s.
1904 where he experiences ill-treatment at the
hands of Brahmins as he was of another caste
Day by day the Dravidian move-
ment has exposed itself in many
Going against social norms, Periyar gets his sister, who ways, says Lakshmanan. They are
1918 was widowed at nine years of age, remarried getting beaten from all corners
whether it is the case of womens
Resigns as municipal chairman of issues or caste or social justice.
Erode; beginning of lasting friendship with
1919 Congress leader C Rajagopalachari
The Dravidian movement is a
clear debacle. There is a des-
Joins Indian National Congress in 1919 peration on their part to renew
A thali removal function presided over
by DK president K Veeramani (left) 1922 Becomes Tamil Nadu Congress Committee
their movement to show that it is
alive. It is purely a futile exercise.
president They do not have any sincerity in
terms of ideology. There is a complete
1924 Speaks publicly for the first time on ending
Brahmin hegemony at a public meeting in Salem
vacuum in the state which the BJP is
trying to fill with rhetoric of this
ing along the road. One of them, an British to rule Madras Presidency Quits Congress party and founds self-respect sort.
80-year-old priest, sustained inju- from London and attacked Hindus.
Periyar was anti-national, a stooge
1925 movement a.k.a. Dravidian movement It is perhaps a reflection
of this situation that the
ries to his hand as well.
This has once again kicked off a of the British, he says. Meets Mahatma Gandhi and strongly crafty politician, DMK
storm within the BJP in the state,
with BJP state president Tamilisai
This definitely is going to happen
more going forward, says Gnani
1927 advocates abolishment of caste system chief M Karunanidhi,
treads with care on the is-
At the first self-respect conference, Periyar
Soundararajan condemning the in- Sankaran, a political analyst based sue of thali removal. In a
introduces the concept of self-respect
cident saying, Those who disturb
peace should be punished severely
in Chennai. These two opposing
ideologies are bound to clash and
1929 marriage, widow remarriage and
inter-caste marriages
statement at the time hitting
out at pro-Hindu groups that at-
by law. These are cowardly acts that we will see more such incidents, as tacked DK men, Karunanidhi point-
deserve strong condemnation.
Union minister of state for road
the battle for Tamil Nadu culminates
in elections in 2016.
1931 Heads to Europe and addresses labourers there
on rationalism and socialism
edly said that wearing a thali or not
was an individuals preference. When
transport & highways and shipping, The BJPs rhetoric too is similar I participated in a similar event in the
Anti-Hindi agitations begin as Hindi was sought
Pon Radhakrishnan too chipped in
with a high-decibel retort. Instead
there appears to be a conscious
move to deconstruct the aura of 1936 to be imposed throughout India
past, DK president K Veeramani asked
me to remove thalis. But I openly re-
of taking on ideology with ideology, Periyar. This is the land of Nayan- Periyar is invited to form government as leader of sisted the idea. Also, I have never com-
these cowardly elements have cho- mars and Alwars, says H Raja. EVR pelled anyone to take part in any event
sen to attack an old helpless man. If [Periyar] and [CN] Annadurai are 1940 Justice Party; he demands separate Dravida
Nadu for the Dravidian race and declines of the Dravidar Kazhagam, he added
such incidents continue, the reper- incidental. The Aryan-Dravidian political power for good measure.
cussions will be severe, he warned. theory was propagated by British Some experts feel

A Storm Brews
Bishop Caldwell. Todays youth
knows the truth, he says.
1944 Name of Justice Party is changed to
Dravidar Kazhagam
that Karunanidhi is
being practical. Ta-
The self-respect movement and ra- The BJP has a very clear cut strat- mil Nadus issues are
tionalists are diametrically and ide-
ologically opposed to organisations
egy, says C Lakshmanan, assistant
professor at Madras Institute of De-
1947 When India attains Independence, Periyar
calls it a Mourning Day, says the country
not along ideologi-
c al lines, says
went from British rule to Brahmin
like the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamse- velopment Studies. [If ] one person and Baniya rule Manushyaputhiran,
vak Sangh], explains Veeramani of
the DK. They are provoking people
will go aggressive, the other person
will soft pedal. They will try to ap-
1948 When Gandhi is assassinated, Periyar condemns it
author and political watcher. People
are facing economic issues and
in the state for no reason. Not just propriate Periyar if possible. But and demands India to be renamed as battling alcoholism. The DK has
the DK, all like-minded organisa-
tions will oppose them, he adds.
this is all to remain in the limelight,
create a controversy so as to remain
1949 Gandhi Nadu (Gandhi nation) taken up these issues of thali
and beef ban. The DMK has not
Sources within the BJP though say a talking point. Marries for the second time to Maniammai, a taken it up. They are a main-
woman much younger to him
that this is not merely a clash of ide-
ology after all the presence of pro-
The urgent need to destroy or at
least wound the Dravidian ideology 1953 Starts a movement to destroy superstition
stream political party and they
will not get into this. There will be
Hindu groups like the RSS and Hin- in some fashion is likely due to the and blind idol worship no such ideological clashes, he says.
du Munnani in the state is very fact that Dravidianism, rationalism Today, however, the state is at a
small and their activity can only be and the self-respect movement have Forces Rajaji to resign as the CM who wanted to juncture where Periyar is being ques-
seen in pockets in Kanyakumari 1953 introduce a system of education based on the tioned and his ideology challenged.
and some western districts. The parents profession; Kamaraj takes over as CM Periyar was anti-Dalit, his ideology
strategy is a much larger one, based needs to be buried, says H Raja of the
on the perception of the youth of
the state, they say. The key to this
1955 Burns pictures of Lord Rama as symbolic of
protest against Aryan domination
BJP. I will definitely endeavour to fin-
ish off Dravidian ideology, he says.
strategy is to question the core of 1957 Burn a copy of Indian Constitution to show Periyarists too refuse to back down.
Dravidianism itself and to attack protest against casteism Tamil soil is always Periyars soil,
the rationalism and atheism of the says Veeramani of the DK. They [Hin-
leader of the Dravidian movement, 1969 Agitation to allow all castes to enter into the
sanctum sanctorum of temples
dutva groups] will never be able to
Periyar himself. grow here. Personal vituperation will
Periyar has spread lies and ca- be the fertiliser by which we will grow
UNESCO citation on Periyar: Periyar the
nards, says H Raja of the BJP. Lord
Macaulay used him. Periyar was
1970 prophet of new age; the Socrates of south east Asia;
father of the social reform movement and arch
better in the state, he says.
As 2016 approaches, Tamil Nadu is
against Indians getting freedom. In enemy of ignorance, superstitions, meaningless likely to be the battleground yet
a Salem conference in 1944, Periyar customs and base manners again for conflicting, contradictory
said Gandhi has gone insane by ask-
ing for freedom. He wanted the
1973 Periyar breathed his last
(The writer is a freelance journalist
Source: Dravidar Kazhagam based in Chennai)