Death Anniversary of Periyar: What was the Self Respect Movement?
Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy, who is commonly known as Periyar is not an uncommon name today. A very well known name in South India. He was a Dravidian social activist who broke the silence on caste prevalence, the superiority of the Brahmans and the oppressed state of women. Belonging to Tamil Nadu, he is known as ‘Father of the Dravidian Movement’ and is credited with starting the Self Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam.
What was the Self Respect Movement?
It was a South Asian movement which aimed at achieving an egalitarian society. The push of the movement was the upliftment of the backward classes. The main objective was the same treatment and human rights should be given to them. It was started at a time when the society was overly concerned with the the division in the society due to one’s cast was very prominent. The caste system put Brahmins at the top and Shudras at the lowest rungs of society. It encouraged these backward classes to have self respect in this hierarchical setup. The movement was not only limited to India, but also spread out to Malaysia and Singapore.
What was the Dravidar Kazhagam ?
This was also a social movement started by Periyar that wanted to remove untouchability and also obtain a Dravidian Nation from the Madras presidency.
The long lasting impact of these movements can still be seen today, as many of the political parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) trace their origins to these revolutionary movements.
Periyar joined the Congress in 1919. He was influenced to do so by another stalwart C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji). For taking part in the Non cooperation movement, he was also arrested in 1920. He even headed the Congress Committee of Madras Presidency in the year 1922. However, he left the party in 1925. He later joined the Justice Party which came to be known as Dravida Kazhagam in the year 1944. He always kept up his demand for a different Tamil country and was against the imposition of Hindi language. His slogan “Tamil Nadu for Tamilians” also became very popular.
His fight for Women’s Rights
Periyar was a visionary and he fought against a lot traditions that oppressed women such as child marriage. He was against this often raised his voice to stop such a practice. He encouraged that women also join politics, step out of their houses and play a bigger role in the society.
He was against the oppression women faced and was a proponent for gender equality and that women also receive education. Not only that, he also said that women should have more voice and be given the opportunity to choose their life partners, have a child or walk out of a marriage.
On his death anniversary, let us honour this revolutionary and progressive man who can be attributed to having done so much for society’s disadvantaged section.
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