ADVERTISEMENT

Remembering Periyar on Social Justice Day: Is This the TN He Envisioned?

Periyar stood for women empowerment. However even in 2021 there is hardly any representation of women in politics.

Updated
Videos
4 min read

Video Editors: Mohd Irshad, Sandeep Suman

Reporter & Producer: Smitha TK

ADVERTISEMENT

As a tribute to social reformer and founder of the Dravidian movement ‘Periyar’ EV Ramasamy, 17 September will be celebrated as the ‘Day of Social Justice’ in Tamil Nadu. This will be a yearly celebration.

Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy was an Indian social activist and politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He began his political journey with the Indian National Congress in 1919. He then quit the party and participated in a series of non-violent agitations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Europe and the Soviet Union.

In 1939, he became the head of the Justice Party and in 1944, he changed its name to Dravidar Kazhagam. The party later split with one group led by C N Annadurai forming the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and M G Ramachandran forming the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

He fought against Brahminical dominance and gender and caste inequality in Tamil Nadu.

But is today's Tamil Nadu the world Periyar envisioned?

Marriages should culminate on account of the wishes of the couple. It is their knitting of the hearts that should lead to marriages.
Periyar E V Ramasamy

Periyar advocated equal rights in a marriage and stood against marrying within one's caste.

However, between 2013 and 2017, 187 honour killings have happened in Tamil Nadu, of which 80 percent of those killed were women, according to A Kathir of Evidence, an organisation that works on caste killings. But this is a conservative estimate, say activists, who believe that many such killings are covered up to seem like suicide, or simply not reported.

Is this the world Periyar envisioned?

ADVERTISEMENT
Man treats woman as his own property and not as being capable of feelings, like himself. The way man treats women is much worse than the way landlords treat servants and the high-caste treat the low-caste.
Periyar E V Ramasamy

But the National Crime Records Bureau's 2020 report says in Tamil Nadu the rate of crime against women has gone up to 17.4 percent from 15.6 percent in 2019. Crimes against children in Tamil Nadu have also gone up from 4,139 cases in 2019 to 4,338 in 2020.

The National Crime Records Bureau's 2020 report says Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore is the lowest in the country with 97 crimes last year.

Periyar stood for emancipation and empowerment of women, for 50 percent reservation for women in education and employment and said that women should be liberated from the kitchen.

However, even in 2021, the Tamil Nadu cabinet formed by DMK, has only two women of the 33 ministers.

Is this the world Periyar envisioned?

Only education, self-respect and rational qualities will uplift the downtrodden.
Periyar E V Ramasamy

Periyar dropped his surname ‘Naicker’– a caste name – to underline his stance on caste discrimination.

But again, look at NCRB data – crimes against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Tamil Nadu have gone up from 1,144 cases in 2019 to 1,274 in 2020.

On 14 April 2021, over 20 upper caste Vanniyars allegedly ganged up to kill two young Paraiyar caste or Dalit men. Reason, a petty argument. But this attack once more exposed how Dalits have faced caste discrimination for years and even today, are marginalised.

Is this the world Periyar envisioned?

ADVERTISEMENT
Wisdom lies in thinking. The spearhead of thinking is rationalism.
Periyar E V Ramasamy

Periyar's thoughts are often rooted in social justice, rationalism and anti-Brahmanism.

But then look at this. Former Tamil Nadu minister Sellur K Raju once launched an innovative method during the acute water crisis of 2019. He placed thermocol sheets to curb water loss due to evaporation. The unconventional idea turned out to be a disaster. The thermocol sheets placed on water were swiftly swept away by strong winds.

In another instance, what happened with Dr Simon? Dr Simon of the New Hope Hospital in Chennai had helped hundreds of patients in his lifetime, but when he died, he himself was not given an honourable burial because rumours spread that he had died of COVID-19. Be it COVID fear or rumour mongering, it was irrational behaviour… and Periyar would not have approved.

Is this the world Periyar envisioned?

For how long are we still to remain 'sudras' and allow our progeny also to be 'sudras', in this world? Should we not do something to attain human dignity, devoid of our ills, at least in this generation, during this age of science, of scientific freedom.
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy

Over the last decade, Tamil Nadu has gained notoriety for its increasing number of manual scavenger deaths and failure to prevent the inhuman practice.

As many as 206 manual scavengers died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks between 1993 and July 2019 in Tamil Nadu, according to a government survey conducted across India in 18 States. The deaths in Tamil Nadu were the highest among all states.

On 14 April 2021, over 20 upper caste Vanniyars allegedly ganged up to kill two young Paraiyar caste or Dalit men. Reason, a petty argument. But this attack once more exposed how Dalits have faced caste discrimination for years and even today, are marginalised.

Periyar dreamt of a world without caste or hate or gender bias.

Is this the world Periyar envisioned?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

ADVERTISEMENT
Published: 
ADVERTISEMENT
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
ADVERTISEMENT