Skip to main content

Social movements are long lasting and more effective way to bring changes in society

Part 1 of interaction with K Veeramani, a senior most of the leaders of revolutionary Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s Dravidian movement, by Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
***
Mr K. Veeramani, is perhaps the senior most of the leaders of revolutionary Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s Dravidian movement. He was groomed by Periyar since childhood. Born on December 2nd, 1933, he was inducted in the Dravidian movement under the leadership of EVR Periyar since childhood and began addressing public meetings at the age of 10. He stood with Periyar throughout his life and dedicated himself completely for the cause of the oppressed and the marginalized.
As a person dedicated to Periyar’s ideology, Dr Veeramani resisted the very idea of joining politics or getting political patronage and that is why the Dravidian movement has succeeded in Tamilnadu as it is his organizations like Dravida Kazgham which compelled political parties to follow the ideals of Periyar and bring them in law. He is the leader of Dravidar Kazhagam, the movement started by Periyar and succeeded Annai E.V.R. Maniammaiar (1920-1978), who had succeeded Periyar in 1973.
Dr. K. Veeramani is a multifaceted personality, a vociferous public speaker and author of many books on Dravidian ideology, history and political movements. He never hesitated to revolt against the social injustice, for the ensuring of it he was imprisoned more than 50 times. He is a professional journalist and assumed the editorship of Tamil daily ‘Viduthalai’ (Liberation) since 1962. Besides, he has been editing Tamil fortnightly ‘Unmai’ (Truth), ‘Periyar Pinju’ – monthly magazine for Children in Tamil and the English monthly ‘The Modern Rationalist’.
The organisation Dravidar Kazhagam, founded by Periyar in 1944 is led by him at present. DK will not contest any election but has been making people aware during the electioneering on who has to rule the land. As a champion of social justice Dr. K. Veeramani as well as Dravidar Kazhagam have contributed enormously including the pioneering works on drafting the 69% reservation bill for Tamilnadu, the highest in the country through the Constitutional amendment and part of IXth schedule. Dr. K. Veeramani is the Chancellor of Periyar Maniammai Institute of Science and Technology (Deemed University); besides the public trusts led by him run many educational institutions especially for women empowerment.
In a wide-ranging conversation with me, Dr K Veeramani gave extensive details of back ground of formation of Self Respect Movement. He says, basically Dravidian movement started as South Indian Liberal Federation (SILF) which was then popularly called as Justice Party. Justice was the paper they started as an English daily. They used to Justice as nick name for SILF, they would call it Justice Party. . Whereas Periyar after he quit the congress started a self-respect movement. Difference between party and movement is obvious. Movement continues for ever; party serve particular purpose. Periyar said: Parties may come and go but it is the social movement which alone will bring revolution.
DMK was born out of DK after C K Annadurrai and others decided to plunge into politics and formed it on September 17th, 1949. Later it was M Karunanidhi who led DMK from the front and delivered many social welfare schemes in Tamilnadu. AIDMK became a new party under the leadership of M G Ramachandran. after parting from DMK on October 17th, 1972. I ask about the policies of many of the parties claiming to be Dravidian parties and not following the ideology and principles of Periyar. My point was about the violence against Dalits in Tamilnadu and parties like PMK only spewing venom against Dalits to which Dr Veermani says that there are so many Dravida parties but. those who have nothing to do with Dravidian convictions, they use Dravida just for political purposes. 
Psyche of people of Tamilnadu is that every party want to ‘claim’ Periyar whether they follow or believe in him or not. They want to have the picture of Periyar, because they are political parties and need votes. Dr Veeramani blamed the media for distorting facts by blaming the opportunism of the political parties as that of Dravidian movement or Periyar’s movement. It is an attempt to discredit DK, he says. Periyar did not start Justice Party but when he became its President, he started Dravid Movement and formed Dravida Kazhgam to work specifically for the non brahmin communities. He was certain that he movement would remain distinct and different and will never contest election or join power politics.
He says that those with political ambition used the issue of Periyar’s marriage with Maniammai as a pretext to start their own political party. They wanted to enter the politics while Periyar never wanted them to enter politics. It was Periyar’s big movement that forced government to for First Amendment of the Indian constitution that allowed states to formulate its own reservation policies for SC-ST-OBCs. 
Today, Tamilnadu is a model state in this regard and credit goes to Periyar and his movement. Dr Veermani says, “ If public opinion marches forward, law comes limping behind”. Periyar knew that political parties compromise for power and forget the promises they make to people hence it is important to strengthen the movement and force the power to follow people’s cause.
He quote Periyar as saying, “ I am not a social reformer but a revolutionary”. He adds that Periyar is more relevant now than anybody else. How they can’t digest Periyar. The Hindu embraced Dr Ambedkar. They don’t believe in it. They are diametrically opposed to Ambedkar’s ideology but they don’t dare to put that Periyar.

Meeting point of Ambedkar and Periyar

Periyar and Ambedkar are both sides of same coin almost on all tings. Periyar said, social revolution must precede political empowerment. He put a solid foundation of social movement and was able to influence the government without being a part of power structure. After his death on December 24th, 1973, many people thought that the movement will die but we have proved them wrong. Political battle is fought in the street while social battle is fought in the minds.
Periyar too participated in the World Buddhist Conference in December 1954 in Burma’s capital Rangoon and met Dr Ambedkar. That shows his love for Buddhism. Says, Mr Veeramani, “ Periyar also preached Buddhism. He said Buddha was ancient the pioneer of rationalism. Periyar as 20th century Buddha. Periyar said, one who uses the Buddhi is a Buddhist. Buddhi means reason. Buddhi is not a Tamil word it may be a Pali words. All the rationalists are Buddha.”

Pitching Ambedkar against Periyar

Many ‘intellectuals’ were targeting Periyar using Ambedkar. Unfortunately, some of the Ambedkarites too got trapped. Mr Veeramani, says that this is a Brahmanical infiltration in the moment. “ Periyar and Ambedkar wanted to unite all the non-brahmins including Dalit and minorities. Read, Dr Ambedkar’s work “What Gandhi and Congress has done to the Untouchables. He also pointed out that South Indian Liberal Federation worked servile classes both shudra, Panchama all this group must unite under one banner.
He says categorically all those who violate Dalit Rights or inflict atrocities on them can not be Periyarists. “They are not Periyarist only pseudo Periyarists. If you are Periyarists then your priority should be to protect Dalits. If you want to liberate any one then first liberate yourself.
He was very clear. Caste identity should be limited in using for reservation purposes. So many people who want to exploit the caste sentiments use the name of Periyar and Ambedkar but they fail in Tamilandu. They have neither read Periyar or Ambedkar. They want to make Ambedkar and Periyar a God. Vaikom was not for forward community. The first thing that Justice Party did was that they started school for scheduled castes.

Importance of ideology and propaganda

Viruthalai was the only paper which a social revolutionary movement run was started by Periyar in 1935, says Veeramani. “I spent 53 years as editor of this paper because Periyar wanted it. I got involved in the movement since childhood. One leader, one movement, one flag and one shirt. This is 46th year. Periyar also launched Rationalist Forum in 1970 to include intellectuals, government servants too in the movement. DK enters into direct action but Rationalist Forum does not engage in the same as being the government servants they won’t be allowed to get involved in picketing and sitting.”

Tamilnadu’s historical reservation policy

During Periyar when he was alive. Reservation here was only 25% BC and 16% for SC including ST because there was no ST here. Their population is less than 1%. So their quota of 1% was included with Scheduled Castes. When Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister, Periyar advised him to increase the reservation 49%. Mr Karunanidhi adhering to Periyar’s advise increased backward classes reservation from 25 to 31% BC and for Scheduled Castes from 16% to 18% including 2% for STs.
Subsequently when M.G.Ramchandran led AIDMK government took over in Tamilnadu in 1978, ‘some body put some poison in his mind’ and he created a ‘ceiling’ of Rs 9000/- per month to get reservation under the backward classes quota. This was the beginning of the ‘theory’ of ‘creamy layer’ among the backward classes. The government brought this through a GO in 1979 against which there was a lot of resentment in Tamilnadu. Clearly, an attempt to divide them and make the reservation redundant. DK launched a virulent movement against MGR’s decision.
Though he was a very popular figure yet DK had launched the campaign against creamy layer theory. Mr Veeramani said, “You have not understood social justice. They are Socially and educationally backward class people and constitutionally, it is not economically backward classes. Economic backwardness is different. Backward class should to known through socially and educationally. All the brahmins supported economic criteria. Even, Mohan Bhagwat want same as they want to impose economic criteria, he says.
1978 was the centenary year Periyar and Mr Veeramani told MGR, “You want to bury Periyar’s principles”. DK burnt the GO copy. All the political parties, DMK CPI and IML and some of the Congress men opposed the rupees nine thousand, creamy layer GO. Later on, agitation had a great impact on the ruling party. In the 1980 general elections, AIDMK was faced humiliating defeat. Out of 39 Lok Sabha seat, AIDMK could win only 2 seats. Everybody blamed the communal GO. He was advised to all party meeting. DMK boycotted the all-party meeting but Mr Veramani went to participate in it.
He says, “I went and explain to the CM who had called number of political leaders, activists, intellectuals. There was a big gathering. He was arguing about ‘poor’ backward student’s inability to get seats. I put up a question and answer to MGR’s speech. Don’t confuse economic criteria. MGR was listening. Immediately there was a change of mind. He returned and waited for one week and then scrapped the ‘Rupees Nine Thousand GO. It wasfFirst big success of the movement, after Periyar’s death. MGR wanted to regain popularity. He increased reservation for BC to 50% and then 18% for SCs and 1 % for ST but the brahmin lobby filed a case against this in the Supreme Court, which ordered a commission to inquire about the states of backward classes in the state. When DMK was with BJP/NDA we ( DK) supported AIDMK under Jayalalitha. We ( DK) can’t support BJP. In 1990, after the Mandal Commission report, the We ( DK) were instrumental for Mandal. Due to Mandal they said above 50% no reservation. We wrote a draft invoking 31C in constitution. A unanimous resolution was passed for 69% reservation in the Tamilnadu assembly in 1993. The Narsimha Rao government at the Center accepted the demand to keep the Tamilnadu reservation in Schedule IX of the constitution which could not be challenged in any court of law. It was 76th amendment of the constitution in 1994."
This conversation has a lot of interesting anecdotes and historical issues raised by Mr K Veeramani who can be termed as living encyclopaedia of Periyarist movement in India. In 1968 Periyar made a historical visit to Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow against which a number of Jan Sangh organisations protested. Veeramani was with Periyar in that trip and share his interesting story. He also went to Kanpur on the invite of Shri Lalai Singh Yadav, who later translated Sachchi Ramayana in Hindi.
Thiru Veeramani has word of advise for the backward class people. Understand the history of Periyar’s movement for social justice. There is very little understanding about it in the North India. You can listen the entire conversation with Thiru K Veeramani on YouTube link.
---
*Human rights defender. This is Part 1 of the interview, conducted in 2015.

Comments

TRENDING

Eco Ganesha made from water hyacythns, a most noxious invasive aquatic weed

Elsie Gabriel, founder, Young Environmentalists Programme Trust, and national coordinator, Oceans Climate Reality Project India, has come up with Eco Ganesha, made from recycled water hyacinths and silt from Powai Lake. She presented it to Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar on September 7 at Powai lake:

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

In the land of the Buddha, why are there so few Buddhists? Did they convert to Islam?

Sonali Ranade, a trader and columnist, who is a prolific tweeter , in a recent blog "How did India’s Buddhists disappear? In the land of the Buddha, why are there so few Buddhists?" suggests that most of the Muslims who converted to Islam in South Asia were Buddhists and they did it mostly out of self-volition. Read on: *** It wasn’t until college, that it dawned on me that I had never met a Buddhist in my life. I could count quite a few Jains [hawt property for Gujju girls] at college, Muslims a plenty; the Navy, on whose bases I grew up, was chockfull of Sikhs; many Christians at school including a English literature teacher who I think was a recreant Pope in hiding; and not to forget my bestie, a blue-blood Parsi, whacky as they come, [she masquerades as an architect these days, and I always wonder why her buildings don’t collapse laughing at her colorful Hindi]; but no Buddhists. Puzzled, I asked the Pater, usually my go-to walking encyclopedia, but he was stumped. Or a

Post-Stalin Netaji advised Soviets, had facial surgery, met Lal Bhadur in Tashkent!

In an curious Facebook post "What happened to Netaji?", former editor of the Times of India, Ahmedabad, Kingshuk Nag, who later took over the Hyderabad edition of TOI as editor, has asserted that not only did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose didn't die in a plane crash, he went to the Soviet Union, where he served as adviser of the Soviet leaders during the post-Stalin phase. One who has authored a Netaji book , he makes another astonishing "revelation": that Netaji, it is believed, had undergone face surgery "to change his appearance", and is "supposed to have met Indian PM Lal Bahadur Shastri when he went to Tashkent in 1966." Was Netaji so meek? One doesn't know... Anyway, read the FB post : *** Today is purportedly the day that Netaji died in an air crash in Taiwan in 1945. An elaborate theory of his death and the fact that his ashes were stored in Renkoji temple was created. By all accounts this is fiction. Netaji disappeared into Soviet

Critique of Hindutva does not constitute an attack on Hinduism, nor is it Hinduphobia

Organised with the active support of Indian diaspora in US, a series of virtual conferences, Dismantling Global Hindutva, have been held in order to "analyze and educate" the public as to how Hindutva is destroying India, undermining syncretic nature of Hinduism and the country's secular and democratic traditions.

Jinnah's claim: He never wanted Pakistan, wished if he could return to Bombay

In an account of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, termed "amazing but true", Ramkrishna Dalmia reveals Jinnah’s claimed love for Indian heritage and his beloved city Bombay (now Mumbai). Read it to comprehend a different aspect of his life... The account first appeared on Facebook timeline of Christi A Ali, and has been shared by many. *** “Look here, I never wanted Pakistan! It was forced upon me by Sardar Patel. And now they want me to eat the humble pie and raise my hands in defeat.” Jinnah to his closest friend Ramkrishna Dalmia to whom he (Jinnah) sold his marvelous Delhi house for Rs.3 lacs before partition. Jinnah chose his friend Ramkrishna Dalmia over others, a Jain, no-onion; no-garlic; a sprinkler of Ganga jal if a Muslim entered the home type of Hindu. The house was later sold to the Dutch Embassy as Nehru had issues with Mr.Dalmia. Nehru ensured that Mr.Dalmia would later be jailed. Jinnah never wanted Pakistan and even accepted Cabinet Mission Plan in July, 1946 to form

An international phenomenon, crackdown on media now part of Ukrainian policy

An article released by the Independent Media Institute points to how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is using the ‘Kremlin excuse’ to ban media that doesn’t always agree with him. Authored by David C Speedie , the article has been produced by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for US-Russia Accord : *** On the eve of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on September 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pulled the plug on the opposition news outlet Strana.ua and imposed sanctions on its editor-in-chief . This is not the first time Zelensky has cracked down on opposition media. Earlier this year Zelenksy banned three of his country’s television news stations—NewsOne, 112 and ZIK—accusing them of peddling “Kremlin-funded propaganda.” A veteran of the broadcast media himself [he was previously a comedian], Zelensky’s action may perhaps be seen at first glance as largely symbolic. It is, in fact, both inflammatory and short-sighted. First, it should

What caused Kandhamal violence in 2007-08? Expert, Dalit leader react to new docu-film

Well-known film maker KP Sasi has released a new 95-minute documentary  "Voices From the Ruins - Kandhamal In Search of Justice", which seeks to graphically describe how in Kandhamal district of Orissa, mainly inhabited by Adivasis and Dalits, among them a large population are Christians, witnessed its biggest violence on the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians in 2008. Based on interviews with the survivors of Kandhamal violence, who are still struggling against the improper compensation, improper rehabilitation and improper justice delivery systems, the film brings out the concerns of the survivors, through their own voices as well concerned sections, analysing the historical roots of violence, the impact of violence on various sections of the communities and the struggle for justice by the survivors of Kandhamal violence. Released on the anniversary of the violence (August 28), while Sasi has sought the documentary, already available on YouTube, widest circulation thr

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

UN Food Systems Summit paved the way for greater control of big corporations

In a sharp critique of the  UN Food Systems Summit, a statement released by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a global network of NGOs, has accused UN meet of being steered by big corporations, even as the Global South was pushed back. *** The Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems slammed the recently concluded UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading the people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. “It was just as we expected. While branding itself as the ‘People’s Summit’ and even the ‘Solutions Summit,’ the UN FSS did not listen to the voices of marginalized rural peoples, nor forward real solutions to the food, biodiversity and climate crises. Instead, it let powerful nations and big corporations play an even bigger role in determining food and agricultural policies. The UN has finally made it clear what ‘multilateralism’ is all about—paying l