Periyar EV Ramasamy, widely known as 'Thanthai' Periyar and Father of the Dravidian Movement, died on December 24 at Vellore in 1973.

Periyar EV Ramasamy stylised image with shawl
news Social Justice Thursday, December 24, 2020 - 17:08

“Periyar is more relevant today than ever,” says Ilavenil Meena Kandasamy, author of the Gypsy Goddess, even as the leader of the social justice movement trended on Twitter on his death anniversary on Thursday. Periyar EV Ramasamy, widely known as 'Thanthai' Periyar and Father of the Dravidian Movement, died on this day at Vellore in 1973.

Writer-activist Meena Kandasamy asserts the relevance of Periyarism, and emphasises the sharp contrast between the ideals of feminism that Periyar stood for at his time with the present political reality in the country where such forward-looking ideas are undermined.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MP and writer, D Ravikumar, told The News Minute that Periyar's thoughts can be categorised into categories of social justice, rationalism, anti-Brahmanism and denial of god. “Under the BJP government, social justice has come under threat in the country. The reservation for OBC communities remains more or less only on paper. Similarly, the Union government and its ally, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, are anti-science and anti-knowledge.”

He gives an example from COVID-19 broke out, and BJP leaders suggested everything from cow urine to pappad as remedies. “But when they got infected, they sought asylum in hospitals. They want the people to remain ignorant and rule over them," he said.

Further, all the four pillars of democracy are under the control of brahmins, he added.

Meanwhile, both Kandasamy and poet Salma cited the threat to federalism and women's rights from the BJP government which is ably supported by the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu.

"We've Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS who contends education of women will lead to divorce and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who reckons women are incapable of being independent and left free.  

“But, Periyar stood for emancipation and empowerment of women," Meena told The News Minute. Periyar, she recalls, stood for 50% reservation for women in education and employment and said that women should be liberated from the kitchen.

Reviving that spirit of feminism is more important today, the writer said.

Periyar also left behind a rich legacy of Tamil and Dravidian identity. This is of much relevance when the Union government is trying to impose the "Aryan languages" like Hindi and Sanskrit and undermining federalism.

Poet Salma, meanwhile, says that the AIADMK government in the state, by allowing programs like 'Vel Yatra', has not only rendered a great disservice to the memory of Periyar but also deviated from the path defined by him.

Meena noted that Periyar stood for social justice. He was in the forefront when it came to ensuring reservation policy. This is something the BJP is constantly trying to chip away, she said. "The Special Marriage Act is more relevant at a time when we have laws against 'love jihad,'" she added.

Salma expressed concern over the extent to which the younger generation have knowledge about Periyar and his teachings. She regretted that many are not familiar with Periyar.

With Tamil Nadu gearing up for the Assembly elections in a few months from now, she underscored the need for the DMK, led by MK Stalin, to come to power to keep at bay the communal politics of the BJP and the RSS from the state. 

Salma, a DMK functionary herself, said that if DMK comes to power, Periyarism would be added to the school syllabus so as to enable his thoughts and ideals to reach children. She added that it is the responsibility of the people of Tamil Nadu to see to it that the AIADMK supported by the BJP is defeated in the polls.

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