Iconic statue of EVR Periyar at the Periyar Thidal. His powerful presence in the Dravidian land ensured that the hate-mongering caste supremacists remain out of the power game in Tamilnadu but now the Tamil land is being targeted by the Hindutva forces and their agenda is to finish the Dravidian movement in the state. I asked this question to Dr K Veeramani, founder DK, whether the Dravidian politicians who swore in the name of Thanthi Periyar, not compromised by the Hindutva. I also felt that after the demise of towering leaders of the movement, both J. Jailalitha and Kaliangar Karnunandhi, there is a great risk of the powerful lobby of Hindutva through their money and muscle power,
Why is Periyar’s life not taught in the schools and colleges of Tamilnadu and rest of the country. Is his achievements and sayings not important ? I feel the powerful symbolism of Black is not merely beautiful but powerful too is reflected in Periyar’s action more than any one else. Where do you find the Black shirt and white pant/ Sarong/Lungi combination. In the cinema, in popular culture it is always black pant white shirt, but Periyar’s idea provided Black superiority over white and that is why his symbolism is much more powerful than anyone else but I dont know whether the African American know about Periyar’s work. I asked this question to Dr K Veeramani and he said that people are now reading to Dr Ambedkar as his writings were in English, Periyar’s work is in Tamil and need to be translated into English but DK is very careful of it as a lot of ideas may be misinterpreted by the translators but they are now on the process.
Periyar was a thinker, an intellectual and I call him the most powerful public intellectual. Many people feel ‘Public Intellectual’ is a term for serious ‘academics’ but I think it should not be their monopoly. Periyar was the most influential man in our public life as far as Tamilnadu is concern. He had the courage to call a spade a spade. His writings on women are unmatched even today and he can also be termed as one of the greatest feminists of our time whose work most of our elite feminists may not even know.
Periyar spoke against all forms of social evils and attacked the root of it. At the time when people say that in India, nothing can move without religion and we should ‘respect’ people’s ‘sentiments’, we must remember Periyar and his success story. Periyar thrashed brahmanism in Tamilnadu, made the dravidian people aware of the exploitative nature of Brahmanism and provided his own cultural alternative like self respect marriages. Tamilnadu still remain a fascinating state though Dravidian parties compromised with Hindutva and that is why Periyar always maintained that we must not be part of the power politics. Social movements must remain devoted to the cause of the people and must not become political parties as then they will compromise the interest of the people. Dr Veeramani says, that DK remain committed to Periyar’s vision of strong social movements and our cadres dont aspire to become MPs and MLAs even when their cadres do work and spread the message of Periyar all over the state which only benefitted the Dravidian political parties.
Periyar must go international and his thoughts should spread worldwide to promote humanism, rational thinking and powerful message of black identity. Periyar is more important because it is also essential to know that you can bend the power without being in power. Periyar’s power came from his commitment to the cause of people that is why they were ready to listen and follow him despite his strong words against religious belief. He spoke powerful against superstition. Periyar was not merely a rationalist and atheist but openly propagated that. Despite not in politics, he defined the Dravidian political principles and ideology that Tamiladu saw. It is this Dravidian principles, that despite all faults of political leaders and their compromises, Tamilnadu remain one of the best governed state, better in human development indexes where children get far better mid day meal than any other state and they started it on their own. Tamilnadu still has 69% reservation and far superior to any other state in governance.
Success of Periyar’s model in Tamilnadu suggest that if we are true to public cause, we can speak against false religious beliefs and succeed. Today’s politicians cant do it as they use religious superstition to promote their devotees and bhakts. Periyar want enlightened cadres and not brainless bhakts and that is why he succeeded. There are attempt to finish Dravidian principles and Periyar’s work but as Dr Veeramani says, Hindutva forces will try everything but Tamilnadu will reject them as it rejected them in the past.
The comprehensive and enlightening conversation with Thiru Dr K Veeramani will be available in the coming days.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist