The Dravidian Movement got inaugurated in 1916 and went through many evolutionary changes. It was started for protecting the Dravidians, the depressed and the oppressed lot from a cultural invasion. The movement which rejected Manudharma and adopted Manitha dharma (humanism) was expanded by Periyar and became Self Respect Movement in 1925 and devoted itself to abolition of caste system, eradication of women’s enslavement and development of rationalism.
Justice Party as it was known in the earlier days, accomplished a lot to ameliorate the suffering of the Dravidian masses from 1920 to 1926. Yet weighed down by its own jealously and infighting it started moving towards its fall and met with defeat in the elections.
When the party was not strong enough to form its own government the leaders could think of only one person who would be able to save the Movement when it was facing a crisis, and that was E.V.Ramasamy, later known as Periyar. While accepting the top position of the Movement, Periyar said, “Since you have elected me, I accept this post. The speakers felt grieved about the electoral defeat. I would rather feel that you should have had a more drastic defeat since only such a fall would bring you to your senses. While restricting the entry of Brahmins to education and employment and opposing Brahminism, you invited them for conducting various ceremonies in your house. What is this if not doublespeak?”
When Periyar met at Tirupur a young man who made a forceful speech, he invited him to join the Movement. He was C.N. Annadurai, who later endearingly called ’Anna’. Anna was followed, in course of time, by many youngsters who were groomed and properly made use of by Periyar.
When it was still called Justice Party, after its English weekly, Justice and the leaders spoke of non Brahmin movement, using a negative connotation, Periyar decried the tendency, and found the suitable nomenclature ‘Dravidian’ which was in keeping with the culture and civilization. If we call it ‘Dravidian Movement’, no Brahmin could infiltrate it. If we call it ‘Tamils Movement’, Brahmins can easily make their entry into it. Hence, it was that Periyar chose the word ‘Dravidian’ and changed the name of the Movement as Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944.
Strangely Dravidian Students’ Association, which is a part of Dravidar Kazhagam was born a year earlier in 1943. While welcoming all of you to this conference, I assure you that this is a prelude to the call for a struggle which we are going to make, solely depending upon you, and your commitment. We do not want you to break your studies in the middle and join us. Come to us after completing your studies.
Our youth force is unparalleled, no one can think of getting one like this. The association was born in the bang of a battle. You know everything, and yet have come here knowing well that a bitter medicine is awaiting you.
The students’ association was shaped by dedicated people. One was Tavamani Rasan, one who always wore a dishevelled look, and who always displayed intimacy towards fellow partymen. The others were Karunanandam and Gopalasami who assumed the pen name of Senguttuvan. Both of them were natives of Kumbakonam. Then came people like Lakshmanan (who was to become Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha later) and Ramdas. They worked incessantly, yet were never worried about the next meal. Such was their spirit of sacrifice. Three people of this place, who were known as Trinity, laid the foundation for the Movement in this area – they were K.K.Nilamegam, V.Chinnathambi and P.R.Ponnusamy.
Once I went to Thirunageswaram, sent by Periyar along with a few comrades to address a meeting. The place was full of Khadi wearing Congressman. Except one of our people, Ramana, no black shirt could be found there. The Congressmen in that place prevented all hotels from giving us food. When we were feeling helpless, an Islamic comrade took us to his residence and served biriyani. Remember that only we have come to this place to spread rationalism. Usually only devotees come here, this being a temple city. There are so many villages and hamlets in Kumbakonam which have been donated by monarchs to Brahmins.
It is to such a place the Dravidian students have come with the message of Periyar, who is making history even 45 years after his demise.A
THE STUDENTS IN PERIYAR’S PATH
The Ten Vows Taken by the Students with their Chest held High and Arm thrust Forward:
- I will marry outside my caste; I will marry a widow or a divorced person. I will never sell myself, varadhakshna (bridegroom money) is akin to slavery and which makes one lose one’s self-respect.
- God, Religion, Caste, Cinema, Liquor and Drugs repugnant to me.
- I will strive to make the environment clean and pure, to protect public property and to lead a disciplined life thus making myself a guardian of society.
- I realise that healthy mind resides only in a healthy body. I would dedicate myself to the true service of humanity at large.
- “Forget God, Think of Human” said Thanthai Periyar. I will always dedicate myself to the cause of humanism and shall do only what I say and say only what I can do and live with self-respect.
- With hard work and self reliance, I shall elevate myself to provide jobs to others instead of being frustrated seeking jobs in vain.
- I will cultivate habits of simplicity, humility and frugality and smart behaviour towards others.
- I will be a part of the group to save our people from the external cultural invasion and internal chain to our mind.
- I will not consider youth as a time for pleasure seeking but as an opportunity for service, especially social service.
- Thanthai Periyar said that you should treat others in the same manner as you would like to be treated by others. I will follow these high ideals of Thanthai Periyar in my personal life. I will be a messenger to fashion a new world with these humanitarian ideals.