Periyar E.V. Ramasamy:
Peiyar E.V. Ramasamy considered the decision of Rajaji’s government to
impose Hindi as a compulsory subject as a move to establish ‘North Indian
imperialism’ and destroying the Tamil language and culture. Periyar, further,
maintained that the imposition of Hindi was a calculated effort to sub judicate
the Dravidians in order to ascertain the supremacy of the Aryans.
Madras Presidency has witnessed massive anti-Hindi agitations and
Periyar was imprisoned by the provincial government. It is significant to note
that in fifteen years he went to jail twenty- three times and got the nickname
as ‘jailbird’ (Siraiparavai). In 1938, Periyar was imprisoned for his
Anti-Hindi agitation and then he was elected as the president of Justice Party.
In the same year, the Justice Party passed a resolution that Tamil Nadu should
be made as a separate state loyal to British government and it should be under
the direct control of the Secretary of State for India.
Periyar E.V.Ramaswamy who played a pioneering role in the Madras
Presidency Congress, had tried his best to make the Tamilnadu Congress Committee
adopt resolutions in favour of proportional representation for the non-
brahmins in political arena. He gave an effective leadership to the Vaikom
Sathyagraha and campaigned against caste-discrimination in the Cheranmadevi
Gurukula, founded by congress.
When all his efforts failed to make congress adopt his programme, he
left congress and launched the self-respect movement in 1925. He shunned
electoral politics and instead campaigned for social reforms, especially for
eradication of caste system, removal of indignities and gender based
restrictions on women, and rejection of hereditary priesthood. The self-respect
movement carried on a vigorous campaign against age old superstitious beliefs
and practices in every sphere and questioned the role of religion in justifying
and sustaining such irrational traditions and inequalities. The Self Respect
Movement campaigned for rationalism, and against denial of dignity and equal
status of individuals (including women) under the garb of tradition and
The Self Respect Movement ordained its members to give up caste surname
and caste-religious identities; it introduced the self -respect marriages. It
fought against not only untouchability but even against the caste-system and
the caste based disabilities and indignities imposed on individuals.
The Self Respect Movement propagated not merely letter treatment of
women, but for equal rights, equal status an equal opportunities for women.
Self Respect Movement’s role in “Women Liberation” was unparalleled and for that
E.V.Ramaswamy was given the title “Periyar” in a women’s conference. Periyar’s
journal ‘Kudiarasu’ ‘Revolt’ and later ‘Viduthalai’ carried on the effective
propaganda of self-respect ideals.