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Social Justice is the pivotal philosophy of Dravidian Movement – ‘Justice for all and injustice to none’. The social inequality, manifesting discriminatory treatments to major section of the society necessitated the founding of Justice Party in 1916. Its focus was mainly on equity in the representation of the prevailed population in the governance of the State. It was through proportionate reservation for the underprivileged sections, identified largely as non-brahmins, in the executive wing of the State, to begin with. It was the fight against the brahminical hegemony which was deep rooted in all walks of life in the society. The first inroad came in the form of Communal G.O., issued in 1921 and 1922 by the diarchy rule of Justice Party in the British Governance and the third one was implemented in 1928.
Thanthai Periyar fought within the Congress Party for the cause of communal reservation from the days he joined in it in 1919. On knowing that he could not succeed in the cause of social justice in the Congress, he quit from Congress in 1925. The main reason for which Periyar quit the Congress Party was social justice. Periyar founded Self- Respect Movement and was supportive to Justice Party ideologically for the cause of Communal Reservation. After the electoral defeat of Justice Party in 1937, Periyar was requested to lead the Justice Party and he became its President in 1939.Periyar transformed the Party with more precision on ideological front with mass appeal by changing the name of the organisation as Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944. The drastic change in the constitution of the organisation was not to participate in the electoral politics and act as propagandist of the rationalist ideology, keeping its core philosophy of social justice. The struggle for social justice was sustained at accelerated velocity.
During the Premiership of Omandur Ramasamy (1946 – 1948), the communal reservation for the backward classes with changes was implemented even under the Congress rule. When the communal G.O was challenged in the Courts of Law and held invalid, Periyar revolted and spearheaded the state level agitation. As the result, the Central Government under the Prime Ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Law Ministership of Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, the Indian Constitution was amended for the FIRST time in 1951. The Amendment enabled the communal reservation of the Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in education as pan India phenomenon. Again during the rule of Congress party under the Chief Ministership of K.Kamaraj, the reservation for the backward classes was enhanced to 25 per cent and 16 per cent to the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes both in education and employment.
During the rule of DMK, when Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi became Chief Minister the reservation percentages were increased to 31 for the backward classes and 18 for the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. When the very fabric of reservation was put at stake through the superimposition of economic criterion for the reservation benefits (Rs 9000/- G.O), Dravidar Kazhagam revolted against it and spearheaded the struggle by involving the prominent political parties which caused heavy debacle to the popular leader of AIADMK, M.G.Ramachandran in the Lok Sabha election held in 1980. As the Chief Minister, he withdrew the economic criterion order. Besides, M.G.R. enhanced the reservation for the backward classes from 31 per cent to 50 per cent. When DMK rule came again, the CM Kalaignar (1989 -1991) enhanced the prevailing total reservation to 69 per cent by adding 1 per cent to the scheduled tribes, as per the directive of the High Court.
In 1994, When J.Jayalalitha became the Chief Minister, based on the suggestions and model bill furnished by Dravidar Kazhagam, the Bill was passed in Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly to protect the total reservation of 69 per cent retrospectively. The Bill became an Act with the due assent of the President of India. So far, the communal reservations were implemented only as Government Orders. For the first time in the whole of the country an exclusive enactment was made and it was inserted in IX Schedule of the Constitution with due mandate of the Parliament as 76th Amendment, by which the Act was made immune to judicial review. The total reservation of 69 per cent is the highest in the country and is taken as Tamil Nadu Model for the other States to enhance reservation to the desired levels.
From 1921 when the first Communal G.O. was formulated till date, evolutionary changes towards the goal of social justice viz. proportionate reservation have been taking place due to the unstinted initiatives and efforts of Dravidian mass movement, irrespective of the political parties in the Governance of the State. No government whether at present or in future would dare to touch and withdraw this Act of reservation meant for educational admission and public employment. Such is the strong and solid foundation laid by Periyar and Dravidian Movement which is the core principle of Dravidian movement.
The fact Periyar founded Dravidar Kazhagam which has not even one M.P. did command and pressurise the governments of the days of Nehru and V.P.Singh to implement social justice is an ample proof that Dravidian Movement is Mass movement.
Without understanding the history of social justice in Tamil Nadu, uttering comments superficially as ‘collapse’ and ‘looming vacuum’ by observing the temporary political weather only exposes the travesty of justice, possessed by the persons concerned. Continuance of Dravidian mass movement is historical necessity till the ultimate social justice is attained, forming egalitarian society wherein the rule of All are for All will be the order.