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Explained: Who was Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy Periyar?

Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy Periyar

Erode Ramasamy Periyar is considered to be the Father of the Dravidian Movement, he worked against the Brahminical dominance, caste prevalence, and women empowerment in Tamil Nadu.

Ground Report | New Delhi: Who was Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy Periyar? For Tamil Nadu, Periyar is more than just a social reformer; he is a Ramasamy Periyar (Respected Father). Periyar has widespread influence on the state of Tamil Nadu- a state where the Dravidian movement was started and strengthened by Periyar. Periyar’s ideology runs so deep in the veins of Tamilians that even after 45 years of his death, he continues to dominate not only the social, cultural but also the political sphere of Tamil Nadu. One of the reasons for this is the self-respect and Tamil Nationalist movement started by Periyar which touched people from all walks of life invoking Tamilian Pride in them.

Who was Periyar?

Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy also known as Thanthai Periyar (Father Periyar) even today continues to inspire the rationalists across the country. In the Tamil heartland, Periyar is considered no less than a God, criticizing who would be inviting a lot of wrath upon oneself.

Periyar’s hatred towards Hinduism and Brahminism, in particular, was too radical but his rationale and logic found some admirers, even when they rejected his radical Anti-Hindu propositions. He took pride in his Dravidian ancestry and rejected the dominance of Northern Aryans on Southern Dravidians in its entirety. He considered Brahminism, Vedas, and Caste system laid down by Manu a tool of oppression by the Aryans. Therefore, for his entire life, he batted for the abolition of castes and equality among genders, classes, and self-respect amongst Dravidians.

The seeds of even prevalent Anti-Hindi notion in south India were sown during Periyar’s 1938 Anti-Hindi agitation when Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari became the Cheif Minister of Madras Presidency and introduced Hindi as a compulsory language of study in schools.

Periyar and politics:

He was a member of the Indian National Congress in his early years. However, the dominance of upper caste brahminical leaders in the party led to his decision of quitting the party. He joined the Justice Party later on. However, it was until only 1944 he served in Justice Party. At a rally in 1944, he in his capacity as the leader of the Justice Party declared that the party would henceforth be known as the Dravida Kazhagam. A party that took social reform not as a political motive but as a social motive to root out the inequality prevalent in the society.

Periyar mostly stayed away from parliamentary politics as he felt the only way to achieve his aim of social equality was through masses and not parliament. However, many leaders who didn’t agree with his stance split from Dravidar Kazhagam and formed their own party  Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) under the leadership of C N Annadurai in 1949. Even though the split was due to the method adopted to achieve social equality, the main aim of both the party remained the same.

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In the post-independence era, DMK rose to new heights following the mass mobilization for the Dravidian cause. Even the most powerful leaders like Karunanidhi, MGR, and J Jayalalitha, and now the new entrant like Kamal Haasan swear by his ideology.

Periyar on Women Empowerment:

Remarkably, Periyar advocated the liberation of women from the chains of customs and superstitions that he felt were the reasons for degenerating Dravidian community. The Dravidar Kazhagam vehemently fought for the abolition of untouchability amongst the Dalits. It also focused its attention on liberation women, women’s education, willing marriage, widow marriage, orphanages, and mercy homes.

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BJP National Secretary H.Raja’s comments against Periyar, calling for breaking his statue after similar was done to Lenin, was the biggest mistake the BJP hoped not to commit. At a time when allies are on the verge of abandoning BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bjp is seeking to make a stronger alternative to these allies in the south. Periyar’s ideology runs deep in the blood of Tamilian and he is one of the sources of Tamizhan pride. At such a critical time, H. raja’s act is nothing less than suicidal for the party.

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