After two statues of Russian communist revolutionary Lenin were toppled in Tripura's Belonia town on Tuesday, Tamil Nadu's Vellore saw demolition of bust of Tamil icon and social activist EV Ramasamy, famously called Periyar, which means 'elder' or 'respected' in Tamil. Periyar, who began the Self-Respect Movement and founded the first Dravidian outfits in the country Dravidar Kazhagam, is a revered figure in the state. As the Left targeted the BJP over the vandalism of the Lenin statue, a BJP leader in Tamil Nadu, H Raja, had suggested on Facebook that Periyar statues in his state could be next. "Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection has India with Communists? Lenin's statue has been removed in Tripura. Today it is Lenin's statue in Tripura, tomorrow it will be the statue of caste fanatic EV Ramasamy," said the post, which the BJP leader deleted after a huge backlash in Tamil Nadu. He later apologized for his post and also disowned it saying the admin of the page posted it without seeking his permission.
Here's what you should know about Periyar EV Ramasamy and his movements:
Born in 1879, Dravidian social reformer Periyar EV Ramaswamy worked towards rural upliftment and eradication of caste system. For this, he led the Self-Respect Movement in the 1920s aimed at achieving equal human rights for all castes. Realising the domination of Brahmins in every sphere, he questioned the subjugation of Dravidians as the Brahmins enjoyed the gifts and donations from them but opposed and discriminated them in cultural and religious matters. His motto was to make person from every caste respect his/her individuality and only then can the notion of 'superior' and 'inferior' caste be banished. "There should be no differentiation amongst the people. All should be treated as equals," he had said. The movement was extremely influential not just in Tamil Nadu, but also overseas in countries with large Tamil population such as Malaysia and Singapore.
The Self-Respect Movement was anti-Brahmanism, it encouraged inter-caste marriages and celebrated women's rights over their physical, sexual and reproductive choices. He also opposed superstitious beliefs and child marriages.
The early Dravidian movement during the 1930s was led by Periyar EV Ramaswamy who demanded an independent Dravidian nation, which included all four Dravidian speaking states of South India. The movement was, however, limited to Tamils. In 1939, Periyar became the head of the Justice Party and in 1944, he changed its name to Dravidar Kazhagam. It was a non-political party which demanded the establishment of an independent state called Dravida Nadu. However, due to the differences between its two leaders EV Ramasamy and CN Annadurai, the party was split. Annadurai left the party to form the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The DMK decided to enter politics in 1956.
Separatist demands were banned by law in 1957, but despite that Dravida Nadu Separation Day was observed on September 17, 1960 leading to arrests. His campaign did not stop and in 1958, he attended the All India Official Language Conference where he stressed the need to retain English as the Union Official Language instead of Hindi. In 1968, he wrote an editorial 'Tamil Nadu for Tamilians', in which he said that only Brahmins had prospered under nationalism. He also advocated the need to establish a Tamil Nadu Freedom Organisation.
Days before his death, he declared a call for action to gain social equality and a dignified way of life. He died on December 24, 1973, at the age of 94.