Vaikom, a satyagraha, and the fight for social justice
- The Vaikom temple street entry movement in Kerala, with a resonance in Tamil Nadu, is a struggle that set India on the path of equality and justice for all.
Points to ponder:
- The Vaikom temple street entry movement was a non-violent protest that aimed to end the prohibition imposed on backward communities from using the roads around the Vaikom Mahadeva temple.
- The movement was launched in 1924 and sustained by leaders such as T.K. Madhavan, K.P. Kesava Menon, and George Joseph, with the support of the Kerala Congress and on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi.
- The committee against untouchability, supported by the Kerala Congress, began the demonstration on March 30, 1924, with three people from different communities barred from accessing the temple streets to flag off the satyagraha. Police detained the leaders, resulting in a power vacuum.
- As a result, Periyar was asked to head the demonstration. As a token of gratitude, Periyar was bestowed with the title “Vaikom Veerar” by the writer and editor of the Tamil magazine Navashakti and scholar Thiru. V. Kalyanasundaram
- Some of the upper classes supported the vaikom campaign. Mahatma Gandhi arrived as well to mediate between the government, protestors, and conservative Hindus.
- Tamil Nadu was crucial in the Vaikom Satyagraha, which represented a fight by the “untouchables.”However, they were met with oppressive measures.
Over 603 days
- The Sahara motion, which was put to a vote in the Assembly in February 1925, was rejected by one vote. Mahatma Gandhi met with the Queen of Travancore, Narayana Guru, a social reformist, and W.H Pitt, the police commissioner.
- Satyagrahis announced disengaging from the protests on November 17.
- The government of Travancore released a royal declaration that people could enter three of four streets around Vaikom temple thus bringing an end to the protest.
Other similar movements
- Ev Ramasamy, also known as Periyar, was an Indian social worker and lawmaker who founded the Dravidar Kazhagam and the Self-Respect Movement. He is referred to as the “Father of the Dravidian Movement.”In Tamil Nadu, he fought against Brahminical supremacy, as well as gender and cast inequality.
About EV Ramasamy
- Periyar was born in Erode, Tamil Nadu, in 1879. He was born into a wealthy family of landlords and received a good education.
- In the early part of his career, Periyar worked as a court clerk and later became involved in the Indian National Congress.
- However, he became disillusioned with the Congress’s approach to social reform, particularly their focus on achieving independence from British rule rather than addressing social issues within Indian society.
- In the 1920s, Periyar began to focus on the rights and issues of the lower castes, who were often oppressed and discriminated against by the upper castes. He believed that the caste system was a major obstacle to social progress and worked to eradicate it.
- Periyar founded the Self-Respect Movement in 1925, which aimed to promote self-respect and self-esteem among the lower castes. He also advocated for the rights of women, who were often marginalized and oppressed in Indian society.
- In the 1930s, Periyar became increasingly focused on the idea of Dravidian identity, which emphasized the distinct culture and history of the Dravidian-speaking people of South India. He believed that the Tamil language and culture were under threat from the dominance of Hindi and Sanskrit, and worked to promote Tamil and Dravidian culture.
- Periyar founded the Dravidar Kazhagam political party in 1944, which became a major force in Tamil Nadu politics. He also launched several newspapers and magazines to promote his ideas.
- Periyar was a controversial figure and his ideas and actions sometimes drew criticism. However, he is widely regarded as a key figure in the Dravidian movement and a champion of social justice and equality. Today, he is remembered as a great social reformer and his legacy continues to inspire many people in Tamil Nadu and beyond.