vaikom-satyagraha

Context: Vaikom satyagraha is a metaphor for social justice, where periyar’s leadership played a pivotal role.

Background 

  • According to the prevalent caste system in Kerala and the rest of India, low-caste Hindus were not allowed to enter the temples.
  • In the Kakinada meet of the Congress Party in 1923, T K Madhavan presented a report citing the discrimination that the depressed castes’ people were facing in Kerala. 
  • It was after this session that movements against untouchability needed to be promoted.
  • In Kerala, a committee was formed comprising people of different castes to fight untouchability.
  • The committee chaired by K Kelappan, comprised of T K Madhavan, Velayudha Menon, K Neelakantan Namboothiri and T R Krishnaswami Iyer.
  • Other prominent figures included Kurur Neelakanthan Namboodiri and Mannathu Padmanabhan
  • In February 1924, they decided to launch a ‘Kerala Paryatanam’ in order to get temple entry and also the right to use public roads for every Hindu irrespective of caste or creed.

About Vaikom 

  • Vaikom is situated on the western side of Kottayam district in the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It shares its border with Vembanad Lake.
  •  Its importance in Indian history is due to the Vaikom Satyagraha against untouchability, in which Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar Ramasamy participated.

Significance of the Vaikom Satyagraha:

  • It became a first struggle for human rights in India 
  • It became a laboratory for testing important methods such as  Satyagrahas.
  • Instilled rationality among the masses.

Role of periyar in Vaikom Satyagraha 

  • The satyagraha began on March 30,1924  with the active support of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee(KPCC). 
  • The KPCC wrote to Periyar pleading with him to lead the satyagraha. 
  • As he was then the president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Periyar handed over temporary charge to Rajaji before reaching Vaikom on April 13, 1924
  • He was part of every consultative meeting, peace committee, campaign party, etc., including the eight-member deputation constituted to meet the Diwan. 
  • Every major personality who came to Vaikom met with Periyar, this included Swami Shraddhananda of the Arya Samaj,Rajaji met Periyar,Sree Narayana Guru and Gandhi.

Success of Vaikom Satyagraha 

  • The satyagraha ended in partial victory in November 1925: three out of four streets were thrown open. 
  • Final victory came 11 years later with the Travancore Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936

Periyarist vs Gandhian view 

Differences

Periyar

Gandhi

Caste System 

  • Periyar was against Brahmanism,, the Hindu religion. 
  • He established the idea of Self-Respect marriages for non-brahmins, marriages conducted without priests or religious vows. 
  • Gandhian approach of caste discrimination was reformative in nature. Gandhi supported ancient classification of Hindu society into four varnas (BKSV).
  • For him Varna system reflects dharma (moral obligation) and the division of labour which is essential for the better functioning of a strong and moral society.

Socialism 

He preached a crude kind of socialism devoid of any religious affiliation.

Gandhian socialism is the branch of socialism based on the nationalist interpretation of the theories of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhian socialism generally centres on Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule authored by Gandhi.

Emancipation of women 

Periyar was a strong proponent for women’s education and gender equality. He insisted that women have the right to choose their life partners and also to walk out of a failed marriage. He said that bearing a child too is, ultimately, a woman’s choice.

Mahatma Gandhi played a crucial role in the emancipation of women in India by inspiring and encouraging them to get involved in the political movement

Idea of India 

Vouched for Dravidian land, a separate country for South Indians. 

Gandhiji wanted a united India without discrimination of religion and community.