Periyar’s eternal hate for Dalits and the continuing legacy

Of late, the DMK’s casteist mindset and their hatred towards Dalits has been coming out in the open. A few days back, the DMK Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran’s made an incendiary and vile comment on Dalits causing major controversy.

Not more than 2 months ago another DMK leader R.S. Bharathy was found to have made a comment insinuating that the appointment of Dalits as High Court judges in Tamil Nadu was “alms” given by the Dravidian parties. We have been getting to see a pattern of casteist abuses from the leaders of the party in public platforms.

Why is it that a party that projects itself as the corollary of the “anti-caste” Dravidian movement indulges in such atrocious conduct? The answer lies in the fountain-head of this movement, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker also known by his followers as Periyar.

Dalit leaders like Ayothidasa Pandithar, MC Rajah, Rettamalai Srinivasan mobilised Dalits of TamilNadu at a scale never seen before during the times before independence. The movement toiled hard for enhanced rights in education, public employment and representation. These movements started way before the Dravidian “Non- Brahmin Movement” led by Periyar came into existence.

The Dalit movement became a major political and intellectual force to reckon with. The leaders of the movement placed an extra emphasis on Dalit education and public employment opportunities. But Periyar ridiculed this effort saying “Asking the government for jobs, education, duties, huts and housing; and seeking from the Mirasdars two extra measures of paddy is a shame.”

During the infamous Keezhvenmani incident on 25th December, 1958 when 44 Dalit labourers were burnt alive by Zamindars for demanding a raise in wages, Periyar refused to condemn the incident and instead said, “Labourers should simply accept the wages offered to them by the land-owners instead of demanding more than what they deserve”, thus completely ignoring the violent, casteist angle to the incident.

Additionally, Periyar, in the Dravidian mouth-piece magazine Kudiarasu comments that the price of clothing is rising exponentially because of Dalit women starting to wear jackets.

In his entire career of activism, he has not worked or strived for a single Dalit Rights movement associated with education, employment, temple entry, or occupation. But this does not stop him from claiming credit for movements he was hardly a part of.

The Vaikom struggle that started off in 1924 in Vaikom, Kerala was led and orchestrated by the Hindu Reformist Saint Shree Narayan Guru to eradicate practises of untouchability and prohibition of temple entry subjected towards the Dalits. Periyar, who had no considerable involvement whatsoever in the movement except for the one stage event he had attended during the course of the 1-year struggle, was projected in Tamil Nadu as the brain and heart behind it.

School textbooks till date in Tamil Nadu describe Periyar as the “Vaikom Warrior”. Periyar was always envious of Dalits gaining political representation so much so that he once had addressed Dr. Ambedkar as “an agent of the North Indian Brahminical Congress Party”

The brazen Anti- Dalit sentiment of the Dravidian Movement is reflected in the attitude shown by the Dravidian parties that subsequently ruled the state. A report compiled in January, 2002 named the “Bhopal Document” elaborates on how Dalits’ living conditions got affected severely in the 30-year Dravidian Rule in multiple parameters like education, employment and right to land. This is believed to be primarily because of the rampant land grabbing by political agents from the oppressed and economically poorer sections of society, thus hurting them financially, socially and educationally.

The DMK government on September 19, 2000 led by M. Karunanidhi brought in a GO(Govt. Order) that prohibited Christian Dalits from converting back to Hindu Dharma, simply to deny those Dalits the benefits of reservation.

Multiple media reports have it that several DMK cadre properties are a part of the allegedly grabbed Panchami Lands including the famed Murasoli Maran Towers that were supposed to have been in possession of the Dalit community as per a British legislation “Panchami Land Act, 1892”(the legislation came as a result of the Dalit movement led by Iyotheethaasa Pandithar)

Over 200 days have passed since political leaders and activists of Tamil Nadu demanded evidence from DMK leader MK Stalin to establish that the properties belonging to the Karunanidhi family tree are not that of the Panchami Lands. There has been no response from DMK to this day regarding the matter.

So a historical review of the Dravidian Movement and especially DMK’s exploits suggest that the comments made by Dayanidhi Maran and RS Bharathy are merely a continuation of a long-standing legacy which kicks off from the times of E.V. Ramaswamy.

-by Shricharan

(This article was first published on the thecommunemag.com on May 17, 2020 and is being reproduced with permission.)


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