Socio-Political Movements in Tamil Nadu

23 Oct 2019

Socio-Political Movements in Tamil Nadu

Socio-Political Movements in Tamil Nadu:

For the Evolution of 19th and 20th-century socio-political movements in Tamil Nadu PDF, Check the link for English – socio-political Movements in Tamil Nadu.
பத்ெதான்பது மற்றும் இருபதாம் நூற்றாண்டுகளில் தமிழ்நாட்டின் சமூக –அரசியல் இயக்கங்களின் பரிணாம வளர்ச்சி, click here to download PDF – தமிழ்நாட்டில் சமூக மாற்றங்கள்

Tamil Renaissance:

Evolution of 19th and 20th-century socio-political movements in Tamil Nadu topics given below:

In the nineteenth century, Tamil scholars like C.W. Damotharanar (1832–1901), and U.V. Swaminathan (1855–1942) spent their lifetime in the rediscovery of the Tamil classics. C. W. Damotharanar collected and edited different palm-leaf manuscripts of the Tamil grammar and literature. His editions included such texts as Tolkappiyam, Viracholiyam, Iraiyanar-Akapporul, IlakkanaVilakkam, Kaliththokai, and Culamani. U.V. Swaminathan, a student of Meenakshisundaranar, took efforts to publish the classical texts such as Civakachinthamani (1887), Paththupattu (1889), Chilapathikaram (1892), Purananuru (1894), Purapporul-Venpa-Malai (1895), Manimekalai (1898), Ainkurunuru (1903) and Pathitrupathu(1904). This provided the Tamil people with a revelation about their heritage. Therefore, the rediscovery of ancient classics and their publication is considered the foundation of the Tamil renaissance.

In 1816, F.W. Ellis (1777–1819) who founded the College of Fort St George, formulated the theory that the south Indian languages belonged to a separate family that was unrelated to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. Robert Caldwell (1814–1891) expanded this argument in a book titled, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, in 1856. He established the close affinity between the Dravidian languages in contrast with Sanskrit and also established the antiquity of Tamil.

Tamil intellectuals of this period identified the fundamental differences between Tamil/Dravidian/ Egalitarian and Sanskrit/ Aryan/Brahmanism. They argued that Tamil was a language of Dravidian people, who are non-Brahmin and their social life was casteless, gender-sensitized, and egalitarian. Tamil renaissance contributed to the origin and growth of Dravidian consciousness in the Tamil country. These ideas are exemplified in the Tamil invocation song in the play, Manonmaniam written by P. Sundaranar (1855–1897).

Tamil renaissance questioned the cultural hegemony of Brahminism. These developments were reflected in art, literature, religion, etc. Ramalinga Adigal (1823–1874), popularly known as Vallalar, questioned the existing Hindu religious orthodoxy. Abraham Pandithar (1859–1919) gave prominence to Tamil music and published books on the history of Tamil music. C.W. Damotharanar, U.V. Swaminathan, Thiru Vi. Kalyanasundaram (1883–1953), Parithimar Kalaignar (1870-1903), Maraimalai Adigal (1876–1950), Subramania Bharathi (1882– 1921), S. Vaiyapuri (1891–1956), and the poet Bharatidasan (1891–1964), in their own ways and through their writings, contributed to the revival of Tamil literature. Meanwhile, M. Singaravelar (1860–1946) an early pioneer in Buddhist revival, promoted communism and socialism to counter the colonial power. Pandithar Iyotheethassar (1845–1914) and Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (1879–1973) held high the radical philosophy to defend the rights of the socially underprivileged and marginalized section of the people. In addition, the twentieth century Tamil language movements such as Tani Tamil Iyakkam and Tamil Isai Iyakkam made a significant cultural impact in creating a pure Tamil free from the influence of Sanskrit.

V.G. Suryanarayana Sastri (Parithimar Kalaignar):

V.G. Suryanarayana Sastri (1870-1903), born near Madurai, was a professor of Tamil at the Madras Christian College. He was one of the earliest scholars to identify the influence of Sanskrit on Tamil and adopted a pure Tamil name for himself: Parithimar Kalignar. He was the first to argue that Tamil is a classical language, and demanded that the University of Madras should not call Tamil a vernacular language. Influenced by Western literary models, he introduced the sonnet form in Tamil. He also wrote novels and plays, and a number of essays on science. Tragically, he died at the young age of only 33.

Maraimalai Adigal:

Maraimalai Adigal (1876–1950) is considered the father of Tamil linguistic purism and the founder of Tani Tamil Iyakkam (Pure Tamil Movement). He wrote commentaries on the Sangam texts, Pattinappalai and Mullaipattu. As a young man, he worked in a journal, Siddhanta Deepika. Later he served as a Tamil teacher in the Madras Christian College for many years. He was inclined towards the non- Brahmin movement. His teachers such as P. Sundaranar and Somasundara Nayagar were key influences in his life.

Rise of the Dravidian Movement:

The Dravidian movement emerged as a defense of the non-Brahmins against Brahmin dominance. An organization called The Madras Non-Brahmin Association was founded in 1909 to help the non-Brahmin students. In 1912 C. Natesanar, a medical doctor founded the Madras United League, later renamed as Madras Dravidian Association to support Dravidian uplift. The organization focused on educating and supporting non- Brahmin graduates and conducting regular meetings to share their grievances. Meanwhile, Natesanar founded a hostel, the Dravidian Home, at Triplicane (Madras) in July 1916 to address the lack of hostels for the non-Brahmin students which hindered their educational development. In addition, the home had a literary society for the benefit of non-Brahmin students.

South Indian Indian Liberal Federation (Justice Party):

As World War, I was in progress the British government was considering the introduction of representative institutions for Indians after the War. Fearing that such political reforms would further strengthen the political power of Brahmins, educated non-Brahmins decided to organize themselves politically. On 20 November 1916 around 30 prominent non- Brahmin leaders including Dr. C. Natesanar, Sir Pitti Theyagarayar, T.M. Nair, and Alamelu Mangai Thayarammal came together to form the South Indian Liberation Federation (SILF). In the meantime, at a meeting held in the Victoria Public Hall, the Non-Brahmin Manifesto was released in December 1916. The manifesto articulated the voice of the non-Brahmin communities and surveyed the general condition of the non-Brahmins in the Madras Presidency.

The Non-Brahmin Manifesto pointed out that though “Not less than 40 out of the 411/2 millions” of the Madras Presidency were non- Brahmins, “in what passes for the politics in Madras they have not taken the part to which they are entitled”. Arguing that a government conducted on “true British principles of justice and equality of opportunity” was in the best interests of India, it declared, that “we are deeply devoted and loyally attached to British rule”.

The association started publishing three newspapers: Dravidian in Tamil, Justice in English, and Andhra Prakasika in Telugu, to propagate the ideals of the Party.

The first election, under the Montagu- Chelmsford Reforms, was held in 1920 after the introduction of the Dyarchy form of government in the provinces. The Justice Party won the election and formed the first-ever Indian cabinet in Madras. A. Subbarayalu became the Chief Minister of the Madras Presidency and the party formed the government during 1920–1923 and 1923–1926. In the context of the Congress Party boycotting the legislature, the Justice Party continued to remain in office till 1937 elections were held. In the 1937 elections, the Indian National Congress contested the elections for the first time and trounced the Justice Party.

Programs and Activities:

The Justice Party is the fountainhead of the non-Brahmin movement in the country. The Justice Party government widened education and employment opportunities for the majority of the population and created space for them in the political sphere. Tamil Nadu’s legacy of social justice owes its existence to the formative years of the Justice Party in power.

The Justices removed the legal hindrances restricting inter-caste marriages and broke the barriers that prevented Depressed Classes from the use of public wells and tanks. The Justice Party government ordered that public schools accommodate the children of the Depressed Classes. Hostels were established for the students belonging to this social group in 1923. In the meantime, the Madras legislature under the Justice Party government was the first to approve the participation of women in electoral politics in 1921. This resolution created space for women and thus facilitated Muthulakshmi Ammaiyar to become the first woman legislator in India in 1926.

The Justice Partyworkedtowardslegislating provisions for communal representation – reservations for various communities. Two Communal Government Orders (16 September 1921 and 15 August 1922) were passed to ensure equitable distribution in appointments among various castes and communities as a part of achieving social justice. The Justice Party rule established the Staff Selection Board in 1924 for the selection of government officials and encouraged all the communities to share the administrative powers. In 1929, the Government of British India adopted the pattern and established the Public Service Commission.

The Justice Party further concentrated on reforms in religious institutions. Tamil Nadu has a large number of temples and these commanded huge resources. In general, the resources were monopolized and exploited by the dominant caste in the society and led to the mismanagement of public resources. The Justice Party introduced the Hindu Religious Endowment (HRE) Act in 1926 and enabled any individual, irrespective of their caste affiliation, to become a member of the temple committee and govern the resources of the religious institutions.

Self-Respect Movement (Suyamariyathai Iyakkam):

The Self-Respect movement, while critiquing the then prevailing social, political, and economic relations, introduced a program of non-Brahmin uplift in Tamil Nadu. The movement was concerned with the marginalized sections of the society and criticized Brahminism and the cultural hegemony of the Brahmin. It advocated a casteless society devoid of rituals and differences based on birth. The movement declared rationality and self-respect as the birthright of all human beings and held these as more important than self-rule. The movement declared illiteracy as a source for women’s subordination and promoted compulsory elementary education for all. It campaigned for the empowerment of women and questioned the superstitious beliefs in society.

The movement demanded women’s emancipation, deplored superstitions, and emphasized rationality. The movement also advocated self-respect marriage. The race was central to the self-respect concept, which argued that the non-Brahmin Dravidian people had been systematically subjugated by Aryan- Brahmins over the course of their long history.

The Self-Respect Movement championed not only the cause of the non-Brahmin Hindus but also that of the Muslims. The Self-Respect Movement extolled the lofty principles of Islam such as equality and brotherhood. They exhorted the Muslims to admit into their fold the depressed sections of the Hindu society, in order that they might enjoy the equality and brotherhood of Islam. Muslim elite considered the Tamil Muslims as Dravidians. Yet Periyar did not hesitate to attack certain customs like wearing purdah by Muslim women. He wanted the Dravidian Muslims to follow Mustapha Kemal Pasha of Turkey and Amanullah of Afghanistan who initiated reforms in Islamic society.

Periyar E.V.R.:

Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (1879– 1973) was the founder of the Self-Respect Movement. He was the son of a wealthy businessman in Erode, Venkatappa, and Chinna Thayammal. Though possessing little formal education, he engaged in critical discussions with scholars, who used to be patronized by his devout father. As a young man, he once ran away from home and spent many months in Varanasi and other religious centers. The firsthand experience of the orthodox Hindu religion led to his disillusionment with religion. On his return, he took care of his family business for some years. His selfless public service and forthrightness made him a popular personality. He held different official positions of Erode that included the Chairmanship of Municipal Council (1918–1919).

In the context of the rise of the non- Brahmin Justice Party after 1917, the Congress inducted non-Brahmin leaders such as Periyar and P. Varadarajulu, at the initiative of C. Rajaji. Periyar resigned from all the government positions to support the Non- Cooperation Movement (1920–1922). He gave up his profitable business and became an active member of the Congress. He promoted khadi and sold it on the streets of Tamil Nadu. He cut down 500 coconut trees in his farm to support the campaign for prohibition. He held the positions of Secretary and President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.

As president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Periyar proposed a resolution regarding the rights of “Untouchables” to temple entry. In the name of “caste dharma” the “lower caste” people were denied access to the temples and the streets surrounding the temple. In Vaikom (a town in the then Princely State of Travancore and in present-day Kerala), people protested against this practice. In the initial stages, George Joseph of Madurai played a big role. After the local leaders were arrested Periyar led the movement and was imprisoned. People hailed him as Vaikom Virar (Hero of Vaikom). In the meantime, he was disturbed by the caste-based discrimination in the dining hall at the Cheranmadevi Gurukulam (school), which was run by V.V.Subramaniam (a Congress leader) with the financial support of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. Periyar was disappointed when, despite his objections and protests against this discrimination, the Congress continued to support the iniquitous practice in the Gurukulam.
Periyar was keen on the introduction of reservation in representative bodies such as the legislative council for non-Brahmins. He wanted to pass the resolution in the annual conference of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee in 1925 at its Kanchipuram session but in vain. Congress’s inability to addressing these concerns made him quit Congress in 1925. Following his disillusionment, Periyar started the Self-Respect movement in 1925.

Periyar understood the relevance of mass communication in spreading rationalist thought. He started a number of newspapers and journals such as Kudi Arasu (Democracy) (1925), Revolt (1928), Puratchi (Revolution)
(1933), Paguththarivu (Rationalism) (1934), and Viduthalai (Liberation) (1935). Kudi Arasu was the official newspaper of the Self- Respect Movement. It brought out the multiple voices and ideas of Non-Brahmins, women, and religious minorities. Usually, Periyar wrote a column and expressed his opinion on social issues in each of its issues. He frequently wrote columns under the pseudonym of Chitraputtiran.

Over the years, Periyar visited many countries and interacted with intellectuals all over. He visited Singapore and Malaya (1929– 1930, 1954), Egypt, U.S.S.R. (modern Russia), Greece, Turkey, Germany, England, Spain, France, and Portugal (1931–32), and Burma (1954 to attend the 2500th birth Anniversary of the Buddha). His experience of traveling in the Soviet Union and Europe carried Periyar towards socialist ideals. Periyar had a close relationship with Singaravelar who is considered the first communist of south India and a pioneer of Buddhism. In 1936, Periyar got Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste translated into Tamil immediately after it was written. He also supported Ambedkar’s demand for separate electorates for scheduled castes.

In 1937, in opposition to the Rajaji’s government’s move to introduce compulsory Hindi in schools, he launched a popular movement to oppose it. The anti-Hindi agitation (1937–39) had a big impact on Tamilnadu’s politics. Periyar was imprisoned for his role in the movement. When he was still in jail, Periyar was elected the president of the Justice Party. Thereafter the Justice Party merged with the Self-Respect Movement. It was rechristened as Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) in 1944.

Rajaji, the Chief Minister of Madras State (1952–54), introduced a vocational education program that encouraged imparting school children with training in tune with their father’s occupation. Periyar criticized it as Kula Kalvi Thittam (caste-based education scheme) and opposed it tooth and nail. His campaigns against it led to the resignation of Rajaji. K. Kamaraj became Chief Minister of the Madras State. Periyar died at the age of ninety-four (1973). His mortal remains were buried at Periyar Thidal, Madras.

Periyar’s Anti-Hindi Stance:

Periyar emphasized that the caste system in south Indiaislinkedwiththearrivalof Brahmins from the North. Ancient Tamil society, he said, had a different stratification based on tinais (regions), determined by natural surroundings and the means of livelihood or occupation of the people. Anti-north Indian campaigns had made Periyar take an anti-Hindi stand.

Periyar on Religion:

Periyar’s experiences taught him that it was necessary to eradicate religion in order to impart progress and justice. Periyar advocated atheism to deconstruct the established practices of faith, culture, and custom. Periyar wanted religion to be replaced by rationalism. ‘Religion means you accept superstitious beliefs’, he asserted. Periyar spent his entire life campaigning against superstitions through Thinkers or Rationalists Forums he had formed. Periyar objected to the hereditary priesthood in temples. He argued that eligible individuals, who have proper religious knowledge, should become priests rather than being based on caste. He encouraged the people to boycott the Brahmin priests and their Vedic rituals. He advocated inter-caste and Self-Respect Marriage devoid of any such rituals.

Periyar, a Feminist:

Periyar was critical of patriarchy. He condemned child-marriage and the devadasi system (institution of temple girls). Right from 1929, when the Self-respect Conferences began to voice its concern over the plight of women, Periyar had been emphasizing women’s right to divorce and property. Periyar objected to terms like “giving in marriage”. This, he said, treats a woman as a thing. He wants it substituted by “valkaithunai,”(companion) a word for marriage taken from the Tirukkural. Periyar’s most important work on this subject is Why the Woman is Enslaved?
Periyar believed that property rights for women would provide them social status and protection. He welcomed equal rights for males and females in property, guardianship, and adoption. He was a strong champion of birth control and contraception and said that motherhood was a burden to women.

In 1989, the Government of Tamil Nadu fulfilled the dream of radical reformers by the introduction of the Hindu Succession Tamil Nadu Amendment Act of 1989, which ensured equal rights to the ancestral property for women in inheritance. This Act became a trendsetter and led to similar legislation at the national level.

Women’s Movements:

There were several streams of women’s movements and organizations established in the early twentieth century to address the question of women empowerment in the Madras Presidency. Women’s India Association (WIA) and All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) are important among them in Tamil Nadu. WIA was started in 1917 by Annie Besant, Dorothy Jinarajadasa, and Margaret Cousins at Adyar, Madras. The Association published pamphlets and bulletins in different languages to detail the problems of personal hygiene, marriage laws, voting rights, childcare, and women’s role in the public. In the meantime, WIAformedthe All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) in 1927 to address the problem of women’s education and recommended that the government implement various policies for the uplift of women.

Women’s liberation was one of the important objectives of the Self-Respect Movement. Self- respecters led by Periyar E.V.R. worked for gender equality and gender sensitization of the society. The movement provided a space for women to share their ideas. There were several women activists in the movement. Muthulakshmi Ammaiyar, Nagammai, Kannamma, Nilavathi, Muvalur Ramamirtham, Rukmani Ammal, Alarmelmangai Thayammal, Nilambikai, and Sivakami Chidambaranar are prominent among them.

There was a custom of dedicating young girls to the Hindu temples as a servant of God, known as a devadasi. Though intended as a service to god it soon got corrupted leading to extensive immorality and abuse of the women. Dr. Muthulakshmi Ammaiyar was at the forefront of the campaign pressing for legislation to abolish this devadasi system. The Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act 1947 was enacted by the government.

In 1930, Muthulakshmi Ammaiyar introduced in the Madras Legislative Council a Bill on the “prevention of the dedication of women to Hindu temples in the Presidency of Madras”. The Bill, which later became the Devadasi Abolition Act, declared the “pottukattu ceremony” in the precincts of Hindu temples or any other place of worship unlawful, gave legal sanction to devadasis to contract marriage, and prescribed a minimum punishment of five years’ imprisonment for those found guilty of aiding and abetting the devadasi system. The Bill had to wait for over 15 years to become an Act.

For the Evolution of 19th and 20th-century socio-political movements in Tamil Nadu PDF, Check the link for English – socio-political Movements in Tamil Nadu.
பத்ெதான்பது மற்றும் இருபதாம் நூற்றாண்டுகளில் தமிழ்நாட்டின் சமூக –அரசியல் இயக்கங்களின் பரிணாம வளர்ச்சி, click here to download PDF – தமிழ்நாட்டில் சமூக மாற்றங்கள்

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Evolution of 19th and 20th century socio-political movements in Tamil Nadu, Justice Party, Growth of Rationalism -Self Respect Movement, Dravidian movement and Principles underlying both these movements, Contributions of Thanthai Periyar

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