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“Is there a need for statue of Periyar?” – Ramasamy criticises Tamil Nadu proposal

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COMMENT BY YB PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

Is there a need for statue of Periyar?

If Thanthai Periyar was living, I am not sure whether he would have approved the construction of a 135-foot statue in honour of him in Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

Periyar or Ramasamy Naikar was a radical social reformer in Tamil Nadu in the early decades of the 20th century. He founded the Dravida Kazham (DK) to spearhead social reforms in Tamil Nadu. He went against established practices such as the caste system that was well entrenched in Tamil Nadu, the caste hierarchy including the nefarious Brahmin domination, the exclusion of lower castes in employment and entry into temples and the subordination of women.

#TamilSchoolmychoice

Throughout his activism, Periyar been an iconoclast himself called for rational and logical thinking among the masses to move away from centuries old patriarchal domination. He did not merely preach but actively took efforts in demonstrating his beliefs by demolishing structures, whether religious or not, to demonstrate their irrationality.

Not that Periyar was an avowed atheist, but more of an agnostic and a rationalist.

He was against the dominant Hindu religion and practices and how they were used by the upper castes namely Brahmins to impose their social and political order.

It was not an easy matter to remove practices and institutions that were entrenched over a long period time. Periyar was often crude and rough in implementing his rationalist thoughts given the stiff opposition from the Brahminical organisations and institutions.

If I understand, for an extraordinary person who never believed in leaving his legacy or cult of personality, the very idea of a statute in his remembrance might be something abhorrent to his staunch followers.

For a person, an iconoclast, a statute in his remembrance is unthinkable. It was revival of something that he dreaded in his lifetime.

Just like I was opposed to an erection of his statue in the state of Penang, Malaysia some years ago.

But yet the persons who inherited his movement, the DK, have not only inherited and amassed properties in millions in his name, but have the temerity to construct a 135-foot statute for him, especially in the Tamil heartland.

In the very place, Periyar doggedly fought against class and caste oppression against the lower classes with the objective to free them.

K.Veeramani with Periyar

DK, the organisation inherited from Periyar, by none other than K.Veeramani, supposedly a staunch follower. It is his family members who manage and control the organisation.

The very process of institutionalisation of DK over the years has meant that the ideas of Periyar have become less and less radical to foment social change.

However, gone are the days when the movement that truly inspired radical reforms has been hijacked by self-serving and opportunist politicians in the Dravidian political parties.

By the way, M.K.Stalin, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and head of the Dravida Munnetra Kazham (DMK) has given the state’s approval for the construction of the 135-foot statue of Periyar.

Stalin being the new head of the state merely wants to ride the tide of the popularity that might be associated with the statue.

As far as I am concerned, the progressive clock in Tamil Nadu has stopped ticking after the demise of Periyar.

Periyar refused to enter into politics, it was Annadurai and  Karunandhi who conveniently parted with Periyar to form DMK to engage in electoral politics.

Throughout his life, Periyar remained true to his cause of social and economic emancipation of the downtrodden classes in Tami Nadu.

Today, the greedy and self-interested politicians of the Tamil or Dravidian political parties are reaping personal and family benefits from riding on the immense contribution of Periyar.

But the impact of the change initiated by Periyar and his DK movement seems an ever lasting phenomenon in Tamil Nadu.
It was through the reforms engendered that social mobilisation of the lower castes/classes was much more rapid in Tamil Nadu than any states in India.

Periyar, might not have removed the caste system in its entirety, but it was considerably weakened to allow for the up mobility of the lower castes.

If persons from the lower castes can be found in some of the top posts in the civil service in Tamil Nadu, the credit must certainly go to Periyar and not to the self-serving and opportunists politicians who came after him.

K.Veeramani

K.Veeramani, with a string of titles, is apparently the person who is supposed to carry with the ideals of Periyar. However, he is not interested in radical ideas but prefers to put show pieces in remembrance of Periyar.

Is there a competition between the 135-foot statute of Periyar that is about to be built and the 133-foot statute of Thiruvalluvar, an ancient Tamil scholar who penned the volume called Thirikkural?

Thiruvalluvar’s statue built some years back is on the tiny island off Kanniyekumari, at the southern tip of Tamil Nadu. Erecting a statue in remembrance of Periyar is wrong in the first place, let alone engage in competition with the statue of the renown poet and literary figure, Thiruvalluvar.

Thiruvalluvar Statue in Kanyakumari

Periyar’s rationalist thinking is contrary to the idea of erecting structures or indulging in cult worship. The writings of Thiruvalluvar are much more powerful, universal and enduring from the meaning that could be derived from seeing the statue.

Why is the need to erect Periyar statue a few feet higher than Thiruvalluvar?

Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil sage might have lived thousands of years before the birth of Periyar. Periyar had acknowledged the great writings of Thiruvalluvar.

It is really stupid and mindless to compare both or even to think and act that Periyar’s statue must be a few feet higher than Thiruvalluvar.

The golden age of reformism has ended with the demise of Periyar. His name is being used to further the political and economic interests of those in power and position in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK regime is an utter shame on Tamils.

It could not save the innocent Tamils from being massacred by the Sinhala racists and therefore do not deserve to be called a Dravidian or Tamil party.

The former chief minister of Tamil Nadu and the father of the present chief minister Karunanidhi could not save the Tamils by interceding on behalf during the closing stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.

His ties with New Delhi was more important than the lives of the Tamils.

Yet, Karunandhi harboured the ambition to become the world leader of Tamils but ended up as a person who betrayed the Tamils.

The reputation of a true leader of global Tamils goes to “another hero” who sacrificed his family so that Tamils could lead a life of dignity and freedom.


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