December 24 is the 46th death anniversary of E.V. Ramasamy Periyar, the flagbearer of Tamil pride in Tamil Nadu.
Who is Periyar?
Periyar was, and still is, a very important political figure in Southern India, especially Tamil Nadu. He was the father of the Dravidian movement that produced DMK, AIDMK and MDMK.
Movements for Anti-caste and Self respect
Periyar came to be known widely as a leader of the lower castes after he led a movement in 1924 that demanded entry of Dalits in temples in Kerala.
He started the Self-respect Movement that aimed at generating pride in lower castes.
Periyar started the protest against imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu, which later gave rise to all other anti-Hindi movements in south India.
Protests against Hinduism and Hindi
Periyar’s main philosophy was the rejection of Brahminism. Periyar believed that Hindi was a tool through which Brahmins forced their domination over Tamilians.
Eventually he renounced Hinduism and idol worship. He found Hindi a tool of Brahminical domination of Tamils. His most controversial movement was protests against Hindu idols, which involved breaking or burning of idols of Hindu Gods or garlanding with shoes.
Ideology and religion
He believed in the ideas of Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar and hence held faith in the idea of a single, formless God. He found conversion to Islam and Christianity as a way for the lower castes to escape Brahmin oppression as he thought both these religions created better societies than Hinduism.
Periyar is such an important figure, that no one can openly criticize or challenge his thoughts in Tamil Nadu. Even though he was a sincere advocate of conversion from Hindu to Muslim or Christianity, he is a very respected leader in Southern India, as he was the one who initiated the movement of Tamilian or Dravidian pride.
Today, no political party can hope to succeed in Tamil Nadu politics if it opposed the ideology of Periyar. Even the BJP, whose ideology is in complete contrast with that of Periyar, cannot afford to be seen opposing Periyar if it has to establish itself in Tamil Nadu.
In 2018, a statue of Periyar was vandalised in Tamil Nadu by BJP workers, which was instigated by a Facebook post published by BJP leader H. Raja. However, Raja later deleted his post and even regretted publishing it.