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25th December – Periyar (Person in News)

In Tamil Nadu, Vaikom is an image of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (September 17, 1879-December 24, 1973). Vaikom is a metaphor for social justice — when scores of satyagrahis from the Tamil country joined hands with their brethren in a heroic struggle.

Leadership –

  • In Travancore, the Satyagraha in 1924 against the injustice meted out against Ezhavas (four streets leading to Lord Mahadeva were closed for these castes) and other lower caste community was launched.
  • While the entire leadership was jailed, George Joseph wrote to Periyar pleading him to lead the Satyagraha.
  • Periyar presided over the satyagraha in the face of untold violence and indignity inflicted by the orthodox and the repression of the police. To mobilise support, he visited villages in and around Vaikom and delivered public speeches in several towns.

Role of Periyar in Satyagraha –

  • He used his wit and folk logic to punch holes in the argument of the orthodox.
  • Prohibitory orders were released by the police against him but he continued the campaign. Ultimately, he was arrested in 21st May 1924. He refused to cooperate with the court saying that the trial was just an eyewash. He was awarded a month’s simple imprisonment at Arookutty jail.
  • On his release, Periyar went to Vaikom rather than to his home town of Erode, so he was arrested again on July 18. While fellow satyagrahis were treated as political prisoners, Periyar was denied this status.
  • After release, Periyar continued his campaign in Vaikom apart from Nedunganda and Nagercoil. On September 10, he returned to Erode where he was again arrested.

Role in Tamil Nadu Congress Committee –

  • As president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee he arranged for a contribution of ₹1,000. He was part of every consultative meeting, peace committee, campaign party, etc., including the eight-member deputation constituted to meet the Diwan.
  • Every major personality who came to Vaikom met with Periyar. This included Swami Shraddhananda of the Arya Samaj.
  • Periyar had received Gandhi at Erode (March 8, 1925) on his way to Vaikom, joining him later at Varkala on March 12.

Result of Satyagraha –

  • The satyagraha ended in partial victory in November 1925: three out of four streets were thrown open.
  • Final victory came 11 years later with the Travancore Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936. By that time not only had Periyar become a bitter critic of Gandhi, but even his views on satyagraha changed.

Conclusion

No wonder, Thiru.Vi. Kalyanasundara Mudaliar, the great journalist and labour leader, called him the Vaikom Veerar, the hero of Vaikom, even at the time of the struggle.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTIONGive an account of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and his struggle for social justice in pre-independence India,

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