President, Dravidar Kazhagam
Little known Facts – Today’s Younger Generation Should be Aware of!
On 25th May 2020, in Minneapolis, USA, Derek Chauvin, a White police officer killed a Black man, George Floyd. This ignited violent protests in several cities, against racism. It went on for nearly nineteen days. Adding fuel of fire on 12th June 2020, another Black man, Kay hard Brooks was shot dead in the city of Atlanta by a white police officer Garrett Rolfe.
Brooks was asleep in his car beside Wendy’s Restaurant, blocking other customers on the premises. When the police officers chased him, he had pointed a taser snatched from another officer. It was at that moment that Rolfe shot Brooks. Brooks underwent a surgery in a hospital but died. It is told that taser is a deadly weapon and that the police officer had other options than shooting Brooks in the back. The killing of Brooks intensified protests in all major cities.
65 Years Ago
This makes us look back in anxiety at the protests of the Black people in the U.S. nearly 65 years ago. Slavery was abolished in 1866 but another storm shook the nation in 1955. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had emerged as civil rights leader. There were protests against segregation policies, especially the bus boycott protest in the city of Montgomery in Alabama district.
Agitation against apartheid and racism are not new to the U.S. cities. By the year 1955 there were a few changes in the U.S. laws but not in the mind set and attitudes of the people. The Black people were denied basic rights. They suffered social distancing which is experienced today during the Corona pandemic. The Black people had to stay away in public places from the White people. There was segregation in public transport. The Whites occupied seats at the front while the Blacks (Afro-Americans) had to sit on the seats at the back. They were then called ‘Negroes’ with contempt. As per the city ordinance, the bus entry and exit point for the White people were at the front while it was at the back for the Black.
Incase all the seats meant for the White were full, the Black passengers had to vacate their seats for the White people to occupy. Such Black people had to stand and travel until they reached their destination. Such was the cruel Bus-law.
On December 1, 1955, a dare-devil Black woman, Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a White passenger. The driver Jeffret Blake forced her to get up and offer her seat but Rosa Park was stubborn. She said “we built this nation. It belongs to us as much as it belongs to you!” – And the rest became history!
A penalty of 14 dollars was levied on her. Besides, she was arrested immediately. She brought this to the notice of a Civil Rights Activist called Nixon who was a leader, vigorously fighting for equality and humanism. He arrived on the spot and released Rosa on bail. He ignited a violent protest against the Bus-law and other kinds of segregation. Widespread rebellion followed the racial suppression, dehumanisation and social injustice.
Women’s Political Council (WPC) started the Bus-Boycott on December 5, 1955. The agitation was headed and led by Martin Luther King Jr.
During this ethical war, the Black people avoided the city buses and went on foot every day. A mode of transport called taxi-pool was introduced like share autos today in our cities. They charged 10 cents to transport the Black people. It was a stiff competition to the city transport Board. The Bus-boycott paved way for various amendments. The courts of law had to handle cases filed by the forums of Black people. At last, on June 5, 1956 the Bus-law was revoked and the segregation was abolished. But there were several appeals by the administrators. However, after a protest of 381 days, on 21st December 1956 the Black people won and heaved a sigh of relief.
Protest against Racism
Unable to tolerate the victory of the Black, some racists instigated their supporters to continue arson and violence. Ultimately Martin Luther King Jr. struggled as the Saviour of the Black, and there was great up rise for the Afro-Americans. An historic event was “March on Washington” agitation held at Lincoln Memorial under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. Nearly two hundred fifty thousand Black men and women took part in it. Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Junior’s memorable speech – “I have a dream”, became a mesmerising chapter in the history of America. He was assassinated on 4th April 1968 and a glorious chapter ended.
Memorial and Museum
When I visited America. I paid a visit to Martin Luther Memorial and Museum. I collected various historical facts. The tape containing his speech was played for me by the friendly officers. I watched a 30 minute documentary on King’s life, struggles and achievements. Though it was not the time for regular screening, it was done for me as a special privilege. I also had a rare opportunity to meet Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr. (now she is no more).
Precursors and Pioneers
Even in the most advanced, civilised, developed country, America, discrimination on the grounds of the colour of skin was abolished only in 1956, as per historical truth. But 26 years before that itself our Dravidian Movement had achieved it, which is not known to today’s younger generation. We were the precursors in the abolition of racism. This was achieved in Tamil Nadu by the impact of the Self Respect Movement started by Thanthai Periyar. Dravidian Movement is an amalgamation of the Justice Party and Self Respect Movement. On the path of human rights, with the objective of social justice, Dravidian Movement has seen tremendous achievements. These unfathomable feats richly deserve to be recorded in world history, since Dravidian Movement was the pioneer and its achievements were precursory. We had set the precedence long ago, for the world to emulate. Today’s youth must know all about that because they are the custodians of tomorrow’s world.
Caste System and Untouchability
The caste system and the evil of untouchability prevailed in India were much more terrible than the violent protests against racial oppressions in America.
The downtrodden people were at least provided with seats in the U.S. city buses but in our country they were not even allowed to enter a bus. This atrocity and several other persecutions were abolished by the one and only self-respect Dravidian Movement in Tamil Nadu, India.
Bus Owners Cautioned
Here is a news report from the May 4, 1930 issue of ‘Kudi Arasu’ magazine in nutshell, for the attention of youngsters:
According to a circular sent to private bus owners, by the authorised administrative officer, W.P.A. Soundarapandian of Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu, severe action would be taken against the owners of buses who refuse to allow the low caste people to enter their buses. Their licenses would also be cancelled without prior notice.
The cruelty ended within a few days and social justice was established. Does it not prove that it was a great achievement by our Dravidian Movement, long before we were freed from the British rule? Was it not precursory to the transformations in America only after 26 long years? The credit goes to Periyar’s Self Respect Movement and the path for social justice laid by Dravidian Movement.
The Vaikom Struggle
Let us look at another historical imprint. It is the Vaikom struggle of 1924 in the State of Kerala (then Princely State of Travancore of British India). Public access itself is a basic human right violating it completely, the oppressed caste people were not allowed even to walk on the streets around the main temple in Vaikom. This injustice was eradicated by the Vaikom agitation held by our Dravidian Movement. It was the precursory war for human rights. It was a historical protests against the evils called untouchability and caste system. We created an awareness all over the country that ‘Public Access’ is one of the human rights. Vaikom struggle has become a glorious chapter in the history of human rights, storing the self-respect of the ‘unapproachables’.
Resolutions and Rejections
During 1919, the emperor of Pitapuram tabled a resolution to the Government that the marginalised low caste people and the untouchables must be granted rights to use common wells, roads, choultries, hospitals and all the Government establishments should be accessible for them. But a British minister Todd Hunter felt that caste system cannot be abolished in haste. He advised slow measures. So, the resolution tabled on behalf of the Justice Party could not be implemented.
Thus, there were various resolutions, rejections, failures, appeals, disputes and mutual recriminations in the fight against caste system, untouchability and all forms of social injustice. Volumes could be written about them, if possible youngsters are advised to buy and read books published by the Periyar Self Respect Propaganda Institution. That would offer a crystal clear and deep knowledge. In brief, it has been a turbulent period and great hurdles.
Sir Charles Todd Hunter washed his hands of the issue commenting that the uplift of downtrodden people is the task of social reformers and that the Government cannot intervene. Lord-Wellington remarked that justice can never be done to the downtrodden and suppressed people, unless and until caste system and its ill effects are annihilated. He said the Government can only help establishing equality in society but cannot interfere in religious issues. The problem remained unsolved for a long period.
The efforts of chief minister Panagal during 1923 were also numerous. He was followed by another custodian of social justice, Rettaimalai Srinivasan, a member of the provincial legislative council. His resolution was passed on September 24, 1924 and an implementation order was passed on the very next day by P.L. Moore, the Secretary of the Government. Public Access was granted to all the oppressed people, marginalised people and the untouchables. It was officially promulgated everywhere. All the privileges enjoyed by the upper castes were offered equally to the oppressed people. The Madras Government sent its order of approval to all the Departments and establishments under its control.
The Break of Dawn
All these were the backdrop for the historical Vaikom struggle of 1924 in Kerala. Periyar was requested by the arrested protesters to intervene and help. Upon their request Periyar arrived at the spot of agitation, during April 1924. The upsurge under his leadership went on for more than a year and a half. By Periyar’s efforts dust fell and dawn broke!
This explains why Periyar agitated in Kerala. He used to care for the entire country and all its States. His fight for social justice was not confined to Tamil Nadu. During the agitation he was arrested and imprisoned, but his fight continued in his absence under the leadership of his wife, Nagammaiar. Her contribution to the victory in Vaikom struggle was invaluable.
The victory was celebrated on November 29, 1925 under the presidency of Periyar. Nagammaiar was also invited to the event and felicitated. Padmanaba Pillai, T.K. Madhavan and many other dignitaries participated and were honoured.
Thus Dravidian Movement has been the precursor of all the world wide fights for human rights. We had faced obstacles at every stage and legal hurdles. The battle was not easily won. Today’s youngsters watch the protests in the American cities with amazement. My intention is only to make them understand that we were the pioneers for such protests.
Never Forget History
It is said that people who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Hence, our youth should know all about the past. The protests of Dravidian Movement were always silent protests never violent protests.
Please read repeatedly with concentration all that I have written now for you. Do not stop just at that. Follow in the historical imprints and strive to create a new world, where caste system, untouchability, inequality and merciless discriminations do not exist. Young men and women of today are the custodians of tomorrow’s new society. Therefore you must shoulder great responsibilities for this noble task
Remove Manu Statue!
Protest against Codifier of dogmatic discrimination
The Dalit ShoshanMuktiManch (DSMM)extends its support to the demand made by several dalit activists and organisations for the removal of the Manu statue in the premises of the High Court, Jaipur.The statue was placed there 31 years ago by a group of advocateswho wanted to pay homage to him as a law maker.
The DSMM, in a statement issued on July 2, said that the Manusmriti is text that glorifies the worst form of inequality, discrimination and oppression. It upholds birth ordained inequality and prescribes punishment based on caste and gender. DSMM therefore supports the demand for removal of the statue and participate in the campaigns to achieve this.
Courtesy: People’s Democracy
Manu, the codifier of discriminating laws is respected in general as law giver and it is ironical that his statue is located in the premises where the judges of higher judiciary have to render justice to all devoid of discrimination. Discrimination creating Manu from the beginning that still endures is praised by the people who talk against the compensatory justice i.e. reservation as discriminating one. Let the irony get exposed among the discriminated and thereby oppressed communities on the demand made to remove the Manu statue!