– Leslie Amarson
Needamangalam – Jaathiya Kodumaiyum Dravida Iyakkamum
By A. Thiruneelakandan,
Kalachuvadu Publications (P) Ltd.
Pages : 150
Price Rs. 175/-
Though the verdict went against ‘Viduthalai’ as expected, ‘Viduthalai’ gave a detailed account of the factors which were responsible for the verdict and reiterated its determination to continue its fight for the restoration of the Self-Respect of the depressed classes.
The Tamil book by A. Thiruneelakandan, ‘Needamangalam’, which has a subtitle which may be translated as ‘Casteist Atrocity and the Dravidian Movement’ presents the case study of a happening at Needamangalam, a small place in the granary of Tamil Nadu, wherein a group of Adi-Dravidas were subjected to horrible acts of torture and the Self-Respect Movement under Periyar, intervened with all its force to get justice done to the victims.
It was the year 1937. Indian National Congress had formed its government for the first time in the then Madras Presidency with Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari as the Premier. Justice Party, which had been wielding power till then was decimated in the election, capturing a mere 21 seats out of 215. Even the seats reserved for the depressed classes had been fought for and captured by the Congress in contravention to the Pune Pact as per which Congress undertook not to field its candidates in those constituencies.
It is in these circumstances that the third political conference of the South Thanjavur Congress was held on 28th December 1937 in the premises owned by a powerful landlord of the area. The delegates and speakers were big wigs of the Congress party, and only one of them was from the depressed classes.
It had been widely announced that the noon meal would be common for all communities. At lunch time more than one announcement were made inviting all communities for the meal. Somewhat encouraged by this, a few members of the depressed classes got over their trepidation and started partaking the meal. Even while they were eating, the landlord’s agent started insulting and attacking them with sticks. Rescued by the police, they ran away from the area into safety.
The following day when they were working in the field, they were called by the agent of the farm, tonsured in public and fed with cowdung solution (this horrible practice was the common punishment meted out to the panchamas in those days, and it caused pain in the stomach and led at times to death). The names of the adi-dravidas, twenty in number, were later reported in Periyar’s ‘Viduthalai’, which had taken up their cause with all its might and censured the Congress for the heinous deed. It also castigated the prominant Adi-Dravida members of the Madras Legislature, who occasionally participated in inter dining sessions, which, ‘Viduthalai’ felt, amounted to betrayal of their community.
‘Dinamani’ the prominent national (read : Brahminist) daily of the day joined the fray and came out with falsehoods yawned by the Congress bigwigs. But ‘Vidithalai’ was able to call its lies by its steadfast adherence to truth. While the Premier C. Rajagopalachari showed studied indifference, the other members of the government, including the Adi-Dravidas, tried to push the matter under the carpet.
The book under review gives copious account of the relentless fight launched by Periyar and his Self-Respect Movement. Public meetings were arranged in various places and the public were informed of the brutal treatment given to a section of the society. ‘Viduthalai’ wrote detailed editorials baring all the facts and revealing the unabashed acts of betrayals indulged in by people in the government and in the upper strata of the society.
To prove his status and authority, the landlord T K B S Udayar filed a slander case against ‘Viduthalai’ in the Thanjavur Magistrate Court. With a determination to fight the case to its end, ‘Viduthalai’ solicited monitory help from its supporters who were generous in their reaction, proving their identification with the cause. Though the verdict went against ‘Viduthalai’ as expected, ‘Viduthalai’ gave a detailed account of the factors which were responsible for the verdict and reiterated its determination to continue its fight for the restoration of the Self-Respect of the depressed classes.
The work is well researched and the author has faithfully recorded even little incidents and has arrived at the factors that were behind each action and reaction. This work, certainly, is a valuable addition to the history of Self-Respect Movement.