[We reproduce the speech delivered by Dr.K.Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, while declaring open the memorial, park and statue of Periyar E.V.Ramasamy at Vaikom on 31.1.1994]
[ The 85th year of victory of the Sathyagraha was celebrated at Vaikom on 26th November, 2010. Besides Dr.K.Veermani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, Hon’ble Thiru Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, Minister for Information of Tamilnadu, Poet Kanimozhi M.P., Hon’ble Ramachandran Kadanthapalli, Devaswam and Printing Department Minister of Kerala, Thiru Radhakrishnan, former Minister of Kerala, Belly Pagannan, Secretary, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, Latha Balachandar, Chairman of Vaikom Municipality, M.A.Majood, Organiser of D.M.K. of Kerala State, and the Members of the Committee of Vaikom Sathyagraha Supporters, Kerala Thiruvalargal K.Ajith, M..L.A. and Convenor, K.Madhumohan Treasurer, and Anil Kumaran, Secretary.
It would be very fitting to reproduce the speech delivered by Dr.K.Veeramani on 31-1-1994 while declaring open the memorial, park and statue of Periyar E.V.Ramasami at Vaikom.]
I, a humble servant of the followers of Thanthai Periyar, heartily thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for providing me with an opportunity to preside over this historical function of the opening of the fittest memorial for Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, who has led and won the Vaikom Sathyagraha, the first of its kind in the sphere of social justice in India, demanding the human rights.
We are bound to convey our heroic salute to T.K.Madhavan, George Joseph, Kurur Neelakantan Namboodiri, K.T.Kesava Menon, Dr.Balpu who have pioneered the sathyagraha and E.V.R.Nagammaiyar, wife of Periyar and S.R.Kannammal, sister of Periyar, Kovai Ayyamuthu, M.Perumal Naidu, A.K.Pillai, Kunjuraman and numerous other heroes who have participated in the Vaikom sathyagraha.
I, on behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, profoundly thank the Government of Kerala for giving this land to erect this memorial.
This memorial is not only intended for the Vaikom hero Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, but also intended for numerous heroes and heroines who have undergone imprisonment twice and unspeakable sufferings for participating in the Sathyagraha under the leadership and guidance of Periyar. If the leader is felicitated, it means that the entire troupe is felicitated.
During the Centenary celebrations of Periyar, the Union Government of Hon’ble Prime Minister Morarji Desai released a special postal stamp and honoured Periyar. The Government of Tamil Nadu under the Chief Ministership of Hon’ble M.G.Ramachandran, celebrated the Centenary of Periyar throughout the year and honoured Periyar in many ways. This memorial, statue and park are created as per the decision taken by the Periyar Centenary Celebration Committee constituted by the Govt. of Tamil Nadu.
Accordingly, the function of laying foundation stone for this memorial took place on 3-11-1985 at Vaikom. The great rationalist Hon’ble V.R.Nedunchezhiyan, Finance Minister participated in that function on behalf of Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Hon’ble P.J.Joseph, then Revenue Minister participated on behalf of the Govt. of Kerala. Again the function of opening of the Periyar Memorial, statue and park is now going on on a grand manner.
Actually many people do not know the history of Vaikom Satyagraha, the greatest agitation undertaken to get the human rights denied to untouchables.
Due to the exemplary services of Sri Narayana Guru, who has created the great revolution of social justice in Kerala and several other events of social awakening in the State, the social condition in the state has changed drastically. The younger generation can not comprehend properly the humiliations the low caste people had to bear and deprivations of their fundamental human rights. Many of them may not know the facts of the history also. The report of Mandal Commission (pages 14-15) points out the condition of the low caste people prevailing in Kerala in those days. It shows how cruel the differentiations made among various castes as per Varnashrama Dharma.
“The toddy-tappers of Malabar and the east coast Izhavas and Shanars, were not allowed to carry umbrellas, to wear shoes or golden ornaments, to milk cows or even to use the ordinary language of the country.
The Shanar, toddy-tapper of Madras, contaminates a Brahmin if he approaches the latter withint twentyfour paces. A Nayar may approach a Nambudiri Brahmin but must not touch him, while a Tiyan must keep himself at a distance of thirty-six steps from the Brahmin, and a Pulayan may not approach him within ninety-six paces. A Tiyan must keep away from a Nayar at twelve peaces, while some castes may approach the Tiyan, though they must not touch him. Such attrocities were prevailing in that State.
The Izhavas, Nadars and Tiyars, inspite of the fact how highly they might have been educted or employed, are not allowed to use the roads around the Mahadevar Temple. Even dogs and pigs were freely roaming in the streets, whereas human beings are prevented to use these roads. That is why the Vaikom Satyagraha was started to uphold the rights of the lower caste people to use the roads around the temple.
Leaders like T.K.Madhavan, George Joseph, Kurur Neelakandan, K.P.Kesavamenon, who have initiated the Satyagraha were arrested and imprisoned by the princely state of Travancore- Cochin. Only when a stage had arrived that the satyagraha could not be continued, Periyar was invited from Tamil Nadu to lead the Satyagraha in Vaikom. The Professor of History and Vice-chancellor of University, T.K.Ravindran, has recorded rare events of the Satyagraha in his book ‘Vaikom Satyagraha and Gandhi.’
“Mr. Ramasami Naicker arrived on that day from Erode to take charge of the campaign. If more determined attempts are made to push past the police picquets, Mr. Pitt has all arrangements in hand for the erection of barricades. His latest report suggests that satyagrahists are deliberately provoking the rank and the file of the police to lose their tempers but have failed dismally. Mr. S.Srinivasa Iyengar arrived from Madras on the 17th and had an informal conference with the caste-Hindus which seems to have come to nothing, before proceeding to Trivandrum. The latest news is that Mr. Perumal Naidu has relived Mr. Ramasami Naicker as O.C., Satyagraha Head-quarters.
But the support the Vaikkom Satyagrahists received from Madras, both in money and leadership, was very great and impressive. E.V.Ramasami Naicker’s lead gave a new life to the movement. His stirring appeal on the eve of his journey to Kerala had made a deep impression on the mind of Tamil Nadu.
Ramasamy Naicker’s speeches were especially impressive and their savage force cut through the prestige of the Travancore Government. He was arrested and sent to jail several times.
For the first time, along with Periayr, women also entered into the agitation. Nagammaiyar, wife of Periyar and S.R.Kannammai, sister of Periyar came from Tamil Nadu and participated in the agitation, and they were removed by the police.
K.P.Kesava Menon has described vividly in his autobiography how Periyar suffered in jail in his second term of imprisonment for six months.
To defeat the Satyagraha, a ‘Chatru Samhara Yaga’ was also conducted with the intention of killing the sathyagrahis. Every body knows what result the yaga produced and who won in the satyagraha.
Tmt. Indira Gandhi , then Prime Minister, inaugurated the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Vaikom Satyagraha in 1974. The celebration committee had invited E.V.R.Maniammaiyar to preside over the concluding function of the celebrations and I had the privilege to attend the function along with her on 26-4-1975.
Social Justice, Human rights, women participating in the agitations and the power of passive agitation sacrificing personal comforts have manifested themselves as the four pillars of this Satyagraha.
This non-violent agitation not only earned victory, but also created a revolution of a new era.
Vaikom Satyagraha was the inspiration for Dr. B.R.Ambedkar to undertake the Mahad satyagraha demanding rights for scheduled caste people to use the common tank. Dananjekir has recorded in the biography of Ambedkar as follows:
The most outstanding event of the year concerning the struggle of the Depressed Classes was the Satyagraha or the passive resistance sponsored by Ramaswami Naicker, a non-Brahmin leader, at Vaikom in the Travancore State for vindicating the rights of the Untouchables to use a certain road to which they were forbidden entry. Its moral pressure and the spirit of righteous assertion had a tremendous effect, and the orthodox Hindus, for a while, regained their civic sense and sanity, and the road was thrown open to the Untouchables.
Another incident took place at this time. It shook both sensible touchables and self-respecting Untouchables. In March 1926 an Untouchable by name Murugesan entered a Hindu temple in Madras despite the customary ban on the Untouchables. He was discovered, arrested and convicted on a charge of defiling the Hindu temple.
Ambedkar was watching these developments very carefully. He referred to the Vaikom Struggle, a few months later, very touchingly in one of his editorials, on the eve of the Mahad Satyagraha. These were notable events. Subsequent events cast their shadows before!
Even after 70 years, the caste system has not relaxed its iron fist. The Defence Minister of India was unable to declare open the statue of Sampoornanand, simply because he belongs to Scheduled Caste. The students of Kasi Banaras University have cleansed the statue opened by him with the water of Ganges. How shameful is this incident?
Discrimination is shown in burrial grounds also even today. Still people belonging to Scheduled Caste and Backward classes were unable to become priests (Archagas) in Agamic temples. Now only some of the hurdles are being removed.
Is it not a fact that the caste system is still prevailing everywhere inspite of voices raised by people like Kumaram Aasaaan in Kerala? Creation of a casteless society is the only fitting memorial that can be erected in honour of Thanthai Periyar, Narayana Guru, Ambedkar, Jothi Ba Phule.
Just like eradicting mosquitoes to eradicate Malaria, to eradicate caste, its root causes of religion, concept of god, sastras, puranas etc are to be annihilated. Till the caste system is totally abolished, the system of reservations in education and employment has to be continued. Eradication of caste system is like building a new bridge. Reservation on the basis of caste is like a diversion road used till the work of construction of the bridge is completed. If people could understand this, differences will vanish and humanism will bloom. There can be equality only among the equals.
Caste difference is worse than the class difference We, therefore, have to unite to eradicate the caste system and that only will be the fittest respect we are showing for Thanthai Periyar.
K.P.KESAVAMENON ABOUT THE PART PLAYED BY PERIYAR E.V.R.RAMASAMY IN VAIKOM SATHYAGRAHA
With fetters on his legs, a convict’s cap on his head, a loin cloth reaching down his knee and a wooden number plate around his neck, E.V.Ramasamy was working with murderers and dacoits. He was doing double the work that is generally done by a convict. This sacrifice of a caste Hindu for the freedom of the untouchables of Kerala gave us new life. The noble mission of this great movement has prompted him to sacrifice his all.
Is there not anybody here with the maturity, magnanimity, experience, enthusiasm and patriotism that E.V.R. has? Are they not ashamed of themselves when they see this great leader who has come to suffer for the sake of the people of this State? Is it not time for the elderly and experienced people of Kerala to rise from their easy chairs?
- In his Auto-biographical Account in Malayalam - Page No. 108
GEORGE JOSEPH DISAGREES WITH GANDHI
Gandhi wrote in Young India “Temple entry is a religious right. Entry, therefore, by any other person cannot be called sathyagraha. At the time of Vaikom Satyagraha when Mr. George Joseph went to jail, I sent him word that he was wrong. He agreed with me, promptly apologised, and came out of jail. Temple entry Satyagraha is a Penance on the part of caste - Hindus.”
For this George Joseph wrote: “Vaikom Satyagraha had nothing to do with temple entry. The issue was whether untouchables should be prevented from going along a public road maintained by the state, merely because the road was in the neighbourhood of a temple. In fact, it was made repeatedly and abundantly clear that we had nothing to do with temple entry. It was a purely civil question we fought. It went on for a long time, and in the end the untouchables won substantially. It is true that Gandhiji took the view that as a christian I had no business to go into it, and he sent me word that I should apologise. But I did not agree with him.”
- Dr.T.K.Ravindran in his book on Vaikom Satyagraha