This is another conversation with Thiru K Veermani which was recorded at Periyar Thidal, Chennai at the headquarters of Dravidar Kajhgam on November 1st, 2019.
K Veeramani : Interview Part II
Thiru K Veeramani is the ideological disciple of EVR Periyar and one of the senior most leaders of the Dravidian movement at the moment. He started working under his mentor EVR Periyar at the age of 10 years when he delivered his first speech in Salem. Veeramani is President of Dravidar Kazhagam and editor of Modern Rationalist, a monthly journal devoted to Periyar’s ideas. That apart, he is editor of many other magazines and journals in Tamil. This interview was conducted by Vidya Bhushan Rawat at the Periyar Thidal on November 1st, 2019. These are some of the excerpts and the entire interview can be viewed at the youtube link being provided at the end of the article.
Dravidian movement internationally
Thiru Veeramani said that “ It is high time that Periyar must be globalised now. He said that it was easier in relation to Dr Ambedkar since he has written in English and almost all the western audience read him through his work. But the southern part of India is concerned, Periyar took the responsibility but since most of Periyar’s writings and speeches are in Tamil hence the western world does not have a direct access to it. Periyar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar are both sides of the same coin. Baba Saheb accepted political office but Periyar was very stubborn as he wanted to be away from Parliament but not away from political movement. He was a creator of the public opinion. When Public Opinion marches forward, Law will come limping behind. Without going and sitting with the side of power, we have been able to decide the agenda and get our ideas implemented. Periyar’s movement is relevant not only in the whole of India, but in the whole of the world.
Dr Veeramani was given the Humanist Life Time Achievement International Award by American Humanist Association in October 2019. He says, “ It is for the first time, they are conferring a person from India.. I don’t consider that honor to be personal to me. It is an honor to Periyar and his movement. My identity is Periyar. Many times, western world don’t understand the caste system in India though they know racial issues and segregation, but now Dr Ambedkar’s work is known to them and we are happy that Periyar’s work too is going global.
Hindutva Politics in Tamilnadu
He says that RSS is targeting Taminadu and after that their focus would be Punjab. Their modus operandi is to catch hold of some ambitious leaders from backward communities who expect something. Use muscle power, money power, media power yet we are very conscious and we know how to beat them and defeat them. It is not an easy job for them in Tamilnadu. They have Media, Money power and muscle power, but we have man power. Periyar prepared this soil a long time back. They can’t enter into our language and culture.
Veeramani says how RSS uses Periyar’s atheism to spread rumours about him and distract people from him. Yes, there are people who believe in God and practice all rituals but they know what Periyar has done to them. He says people know it well that without Periyar’s social justice and self-respect movement, people would not have got the jobs and positions. But for Periyar, we would not have entered the educational institution. It has to be understood that if backward communities and Dalits have gained enormously because of Tamilnadu reservation policy, it is purely the influence of Periyar and his Dravidian ideology of self-respect.
Amit Shah and Modi are doing social engineering in UP and other northern states but it will not succeed here Kerala and Tamilnadu. Naturally, people are fed up with them. We need not to lose our hopes. Even though these people want to capture power by hooks and crooks.
Mr Veeramani said that the Vaikom movement needs to be publicised widely so that people understand what Periyar stood for. To spread Periyar’s word outside Tamilnadu they are planning a Hindi website soon. We want to take Periyar’s work globally. It is important to identify the proper person for the proper job. Suppose this happens in Tamilnadu. They would have changed the word as his entire work is in Tamil. That is why, we are insisting that it must be approved by the Periyar trust so that there is no ‘mischief’ or mistake in the translation in English. We have created a university Periyar ManiammaI University in Thanjavur and there is a translation department. They are translating.
Mr Veeramani also spoke of Periyar’s relationship with Kamraj who was being opposed by the Brahmins vehemently. Rajagopalachari wanted to become chief minister at all costs and Kamraj was his political opponent. Kamraj supported backward classes and hence Periyar did not want to hurt him to pave way for the return of Rajagopalachari.
Periyar had always warned against manipulations by political parties to destroy the self-respect movement. He used to say that the Brahmanical politics is, appreciate, appropriate and annihilate. That is Brahmanism. Dravidian political parties need brahmins. We don’t admit them. We admire the reformed people. We have no issue with who belongs to what but Once you say that I am a brahmin, it means you are implying others are inferior to you or you believe in that hierarchical set up. What kind of a human being’. Please say so.
Periyar was a rationalist and humanist. What was the reason for Periyar opposing Hindi? As a rationalist, he might have a deeper reason for that. If you take the constitution, Answer will be found. Our Official language is Hindi and others. They say Hindi in Devanagari script. What is Devanagari. You term Sanskrit as dev bhasha and Hindi Devnagari. What is the alternative for devbhasha ? ‘Neech’ bhasha ? Tamil and Sanskrit are classical languages. How is that one, which is not at all spoken or used and is often called dead language while another one spoken in various parts of the world and spoken widely is ignored. Imposition of Hindi is not a question of asking another language to study, It is actually an imposition of culture. It is diametrically opposed to others. Sanskrit culture is of inequality while Dravidian or Tamil culture is for humanism.
When I asked whether the Tamil Brahmins don’t speak Tamil ? Thiru Veermani says : In all the important functions, marriage, shraddha, only Sanskrit mantras are pronounced. The names of the children are not in Tamil but in Sanskrit. There is a cultural conquest. We don’t oppose Hindi as a language. There are backward classes brothers, Scheduled Castes brothers and other broken people, they are our brothers, our people. All of them need to unite. There must be unity in diversity. RSS is for one language, one religion, one culture and one government. They want sanskrit. It is an imposition of culture.
Ambedkarites and Periyarsist should join hands
He further says, “ Periyar went to Kanpur. His speeches were translated into Hindi. When Ram Vilas Paswan came here at Periyar Thidal in Chennai, he spoke for one and half hours in Hindi. For the first time Hindi was tolerated for so long. Lohia too came here. He was not a fanatic. It was a projection about him that he was a Hindi fanatic but Lohia, as a socialist, an eradicator of caste but this kind of impression was not given in Tamilnadu. If your mother tongue is Hindi then I should respect your right but why should it be imposed on others whose mother tongue is not the same.
Like Minded people must be united, get together. One difference here. why progressive forces here don’t join together, there is a dangerous thing. They know that. Still, they don’t want to join or make an alliance. Our cadres are very committed. They don’t go for elections. DK is a non-political organisation and is a binding force in Tamilnadu.
Self-Respect marriages were Important to avoid cultural conquest. The Justice party got power in 1922-26 and later it was defeated. The problem was that they opposed brahmin politically and not culturally. It must be an all-round effort. If I happen to be a brahmin. what is the root for the brahmin. cultural. self-respect marriages are for equality and secularism. Cultural conquest must be defeated. Self-respect is nothing but a contract. No rituals. Now people are lavishly spending mone
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity