Remember Periyar with a pledge to embrace dissent

  • IASbaba
  • September 19, 2022
  • 0
History and Art and Culture
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Context: We celebrate Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s birth anniversary (September 17) as Social Justice Day.

  • The World Day of Social Justice is an international day recognizing the need to promote social justice, which includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender inequality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections. It is celebrated on 20th February every year, different from India’s case.

About Periyar:

  • Born E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in 1879 in Erode district of Tamil Nadu (TN). He quarrelled with Gandhi over the question of separate dining for Brahmin and non-Brahmin students in Congress Party.
  • He resigned from the party in 1925, and associated himself with the Justice Party and the Self Respect Movement, which opposed the dominance of Brahmins in social life, especially the bureaucracy.
  • Periyar’s fame spread beyond the Tamil region during the Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924, a mass movement to demand that lower caste persons be given the right to use a public path in front of the famous Vaikom temple. He would later be referred to as Vaikom Veerar (Hero of Vaikom).
  • In the 1940s, Periyar launched a political party, Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), which espoused an independent Dravida Nadu comprising Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada speakers.
  • Periyar died in 1973 at the age of 94. Over the years, Periyar is revered as Thanthai Periyar, the father figure of modern Tamil Nadu.

About Self Respect Movement :

  • Self-Respect Movement was a dynamic social movement aimed at destroying the contemporary Hindu social order in its totality and creating a new, rational society without caste, religion, and God.
  • The movement was started in Tamil Nadu in 1925.
    • It was an egalitarian movement that propagated the ideologies of breaking down of the Brahminical hegemony, equal rights for the backward classes and women in the society and revitalization of the Dravidian languages like Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.

Social justice and Periyar:

  • Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need.
  • Social justice and rationality define “the best possible version of truth” for a large majority of people. (The quality of being based on or in accordance with reason or logic.)

Foundation of rationalism :

  • Periyar’s vision was about inclusive growth and freedom of individuals. He presented rationalism as a solid foundation for thinking along these lines. He said, “Wisdom lies in thinking. The spearhead of thinking is rationalism.”
  • Periyar said, “Any opposition not based on rationalism or science or experience, will one day or other, reveal the fraud, selfishness, lies, and conspiracies.” We can posit this with regard to the extreme-right activities we see happening across the country and sometimes abroad too.
  • All the reforms he shared with people could not be implemented at the time because of the searing discussions they led to. One such reform measure he felt was needed to change the caste dynamic in society was ‘Priesthood for all castes’.

Relevance of Periyar in current times:

  • On one level, a few people are benefiting greatly from the rampant rise of acts of violence against minorities. These people have such an external defence mechanism that it becomes easy for them to use incendiary rhetoric and get away with it.
  • The discussion that Periyar initiated continues to-date, and is the antithesis to this manner of societal regression.
    • Periyar proclaimed that he would always stand with the oppressed in the fight against oppressors and that his enemy was oppression.
  • Spaces for debate are shrinking all over the world. Majoritarianism and populism are not enabling sensible conversations in any public sphere.
    • At such a time, Periyar stands as a stellar precedent, reminding us of a time when people with opposing ideas were invited to the stage for a debate.


As a part of creating a society with social justice at its core, let us pledge to create open spaces for discussions in our communities. If need be, let us spearhead such activities on whatever scale. Only these spaces have the potential of creating a positive change at an ideological level.

Source: The Hindu

Previous Year Questions

Q.1) Who among the following is associated with ‘Songs from Prison’, a translation of ancient Indian religious lyrics in English?  (2021)

  1. Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  2. Jawaharlal Nehru
  3. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
  4. Sarojini Naidu

Q.2) Who among the following was associated as Secretary with Hindu Female School which later came to be known as Bethune Female School? (2021)

  1. Annie Besant
  2. Debandranath Tagore
  3. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
  4. Sarojini Naidu

Q.3) Consider the following pairs:                (2019)

Movement/Organization                               Leader

  1. All India Anti-Untouchability     League Mahatma Gandhi
  2. All India Kisan Sabha                   Swami Sahajanand Saraswati
  3. Self-Respect Movement               V. Ramaswami Naicker

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3


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