Periyar’s politics of hatred did nothing to the masses he claimed to represent. It only increased the enmity between castes, poisoned the societal atmosphere and did much damage than the British desired
An intriguing aside first. The 2019 Lok Sabha polls witnessed the defeat of EVKS Elangovan, former state Congress president of Tamil Nadu. He is the grandson of EV Ramaswami Naicker known as Periyar (1879-1973). That is symbolic of the fate of EVR’s politics in Tamil Nadu after 47 years following EVR’s death. Morever, Elangovan was the only UPA (Congress-DMK combine) candidate to lose that Lok Sabha election in the state. The NDA candidate who defeated Elangoven in Theni Lok Sabha constituency is P. Ravindranath Kumar (AIADMK) son of Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
Karunanidhi with his mentor EVR Naicker—Both are seen as the pioneers of the Dravidian movement
This rejection of the Periyar family scion at the hustings is only one of the several indicators of EVR legacy rejected in Tamil Nadu politics. The point is more pronounced by the fact that Elangovan was neither in AIADMK nor in DMK—both offshoots of EVR’s DK. One of the hagiographies of ‘Periyar’ narrates the following episode to drive home the point that forced EVR to lead a life of negativity all along – anti-god, anti-Brahmin, anti-North, anti-Hindu and what not.
EVR Naicker hobnobbed with Jinnah who only used him as a puppet to spread poison in the society
“In 1904, E.V. Ramasamy went on a pilgrimage to Kashi to visit the revered Shiva Temple of Kashi Vishwanath. Though regarded as one of the holiest sites of Hinduism, he witnessed immoral activities such as begging (sic) and floating dead bodies. His frustration extended to functional Hinduism in general when he experienced what he called Brahmanic exploitation. However, one particular incident in Kashi had a profound impact on E.V. Ramasamy’s ideology and future work. At the worship site, there were free meals offered to guests. To E.V. Ramasamy’s shock, he was refused meals at choultries, which exclusively fed Brahmins. Due to extreme hunger, E.V. Ramasamy felt compelled to enter one of the eateries disguised as a Brahmin with a sacred thread on his bare chest, but his moustache betrayed. The gatekeeper at temple concluded that E.V. Ramasamy was not a Brahmin, as Brahmins were not permitted by the Hindu Shastras to have a moustache. He learnt that the choultry was built by a Tamilian belonging to the non-Brahmin, non-Dalit community”.
Women are very much part of every tradition and temple rituals in TN which the Dravidianists used as a lab to spread their poison
The 25-year-old Vaishnavite devotee EVR turned an atheist thus. On return to his hometown Erode, he started alerting non-Brahmins against the “Brahmin hegemony” and aimed at replacing the latter with the former at the top of social rung, in other words seizing the position of power. To this end, he employed language unacceptable in civil societies—pungent, deriding and vilifying. Hindu Gods, customs, festivals, etc, were all superstitions to him. Tamil Nadu witnessed all this for more than 50 years. That includes the sordid 1971 Salem DK affair under his leadership. An aura around EVR was built craftily so that these uncouth utterances day in and day out and attacks on things Hindu could not be subjected to “calling a spade a spade” treatment. Even today, in Tamil Nadu, you would be deemed politically correct if you look the other way to EVR antics. The late Cho of ‘Thuglak’ for once punctured the balloon.
Now, a little digression. The two facts that remained out of focus throughout the week-long controversy surrounding Rajnikant-Thuglak Jubilee – 1971 Salem DK procession are: one, the usually belligerent DK was seen cringing and denying that it had denigrated Shri Ram, Sri Murugan and Sri Ayyappa at Salem in 1971 certainly because its political master, the DMK, is jittery over its losing Hindu votes during the forthcoming urban local bodies election in the state; (DMK did not do very well in the recent rural local bodies poll); two, the claim by K. Veeramani of DK that DMK could improve from 138 to 183 seats in the 1971 Assembly polls only because of the anti-Hindu procession in Salem is outright false because DMK had to publicise its Hindu credentials during the 1971 assembly poll campaign, announcing that it was the DMK that took care of Hindu temples in its previous regime and that it renovated Temple tanks, conducted Rath Utsav in temples, et al. The victory was in fact due to the pious, god-fearing MGR (who left DMK in 1972). DMK could taste success only in 1989 after the death of MGR in 1987. Present DMK chief M.K. Stalin should know. All said and done, a clear message has gone across that Hindus have a knack of exercising their franchise and punish habitual Hindu baiters. Yes, this is a hint that the phenomenon of Hindu vote has come to stay in Tamil Nadu and that precisely is a defeat of Periyarist anti-Hindu politics.
Hark back now to EVR’s non-Brahmin – non-Dalit upliftment strategy. (Periyar was so choosey! The whole of Tamil society or the whole of India was of course not his cup of tea!!). He had to keep out Dalits from his purview as a matter of policy. In the process, he left them to the mercy of proselytisers and later on Dalits find themselves in Dalit outfits often not in goody goody relationship with the two Dravidian biggies – both progeny of EVR’s DK (C.N. Annadurai quit DK in 1949 to form DMK and MGR quit DMK in 1972 to found AIADMK ). That explains why EVR dubbed Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as the handmaid of Brahmin elements thus bracketing the top and bottom rungs as opposed to his clientele.
In 1929, E.V. Ramasamy announced the deletion of his caste title ‘Naicker’ from his name at the First Provincial Self-Respect Conference of Chengalpattu. But what a pity, Tamil Hindu society stood virtually trifurcated, thanks to EVR’s casteist politics. After all, did the preferred social group (Non-Brahmin-Non Dalit communities) reap benefits issuing out of EVR’s patronage in full? Sadly, no. The creamy layer among them did and not the rest of it. Periyarists seek to give credit to EVR for the 69 per cent reservation in the state in education and government jobs. Of late, reservation is sought in private sector establishments as well. Trying to be politically correct, many keep mum, barring a section of the SC community led by Dr. Krishnaswami and his party, the Puthiya Thamizhagam. The doctor wants to opt-out of the reservation race. If this is not defeat of EVR’s politics what else is?
EVR raised ‘Dravida Naadu’ slogan. He hobnobbed with Jinnah. But as the British did not relish it the separatist demand frittered away. Further on, EVR wanted ‘Tamil Nadu for Tamilians’. The DMK took to it but dropped it in 1963 with the passage of the anti-secessionist 16th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. So much for yet another aspect of EVR politics.
EVR cut down 500 coconut trees in his plantation to put an end to toddy tapping in Erode. He courted arrest in a toddy shop picketing. All that was in another Yuga! In 1921. Today, TASMAC, the revenue amassing state-owned liquor outlet chain behemoth, sweeps guzzling Tamilians under its influence, a financial coup developed by the two Dravidian parties. A tongue in cheek tribute to their mentor EVR, indeed. Long live prohibition (in memory)!
To cap it all, EVR wanted to banish religion and festivals to eradicate superstition. His beloved Tamil population responded by gathering in lakhs at events like Giri Pradakshinam around hill temples, Pradosha Pooja in Shiva temples, at every Kumbhsbhishekham in any temple. There ends the EVR legacy in all its glory!
(The writer is a senior columnist and political commentator)