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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Vaikom, a satyagraha, and the fight for social justice

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims:Gandhi, Satyagrah, Periyar, constitution of India, SC, etc
  • Mains GS Paper I: Modern Indian history from middle of eighteenth century until the present-significant events, personalities, issues etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Vaikom temple street entry movement in Kerala, with a resonance in Tamil Nadu, began on 30th March 1924 at the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple.

      

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Vaikom Satyagraha:

  • The movement began on 30th March 1924.
  • At the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, there was a board that denied the entry of “lower caste” people (avarnas).
  • The Satyagrahis entered the temple.
    • They were resisted and arrested by the police.
  • Gandhiji, Chattampi Swamikal and Sree Narayana Guru supported the movement.
  • The movement gained prominence in the whole of India and support came from far and wide.
  • Even Christian and Muslim leaders were in support of the movement.
    • However, Gandhiji was not entirely convinced by this as he wanted the movement to be an intra-Hindu affair.
  • On Gandhi’s advice, the movement was taken back temporarily in April 1924.
  • After discussions with caste Hindu people failed, the leaders again started the movement. Leaders T K Madhavan and K P Kesava Menon were arrested.
  • E V Ramaswami Naicker (Periyar) came from Tamil Nadu to support the movement and then he was arrested.

 

‘Vaikom’  associations :

  • Writer Vaikom Mohammed Basheer
  • Singer Vaikom Vijayalakshmi and Vaikathappan,
  • The deity of the Vaikom temple.
  • India connects Vaikom with Mahatma Gandhi
  • Tamil Nadu, it conjures up the name and the image of Periyar.

 

Importance of March 30:

  • It was a significant day in connection with Vaikom, a serene town in Kottayam, Kerala.
  • The date marks the commencement of the centenary year of the Vaikom temple street entry movement that was launched in 1924, and a milestone in temple entry movements in India.
  • The non-violent movement was to end the prohibition imposed on backward communities in using the roads around the Vaikom Mahadeva temple.
  • It was the prelude to the temple entry proclamation of Kerala in 1936.
    • Launched by leaders in Kerala such as K. Madhavan, K.P. Kesava Menon and George Joseph,
    • On the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, the movement was sustained and successfully conducted by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy(president of the Tamil Nadu Congress, and others between 1924 and 1925)

 

Periyar’s entry, conditions:

  • It was Supported by the Kerala Congress
  • The committee against untouchability launched the protest on March 30, 192
    • Three persons from various communities prevented from entering the temple streets were to go flag off the satyagraha.
  • The protest sustained itself for more than one and a half years, leading to many arrests and satyagrahis being jailed.
  • The government suddenly stopped these arrests after April 9.
  • Instead, police ire was now directed against leaders of the protest and the leaders of Kerala who had camped in Vaikom.
  • Their arrests created a vacuum as there was no leader to lead the protest.
  • Leaders such as Neelakandan Nampoothiri and George Joseph requested Periyar to lead the protest.
  • As a mark of appreciation, the editor of Tamil journal Navasakthi and scholar, Thiru. Vi. Kalyanasundaram, or Thiru.Vi.Ka. conferred the title Vaikom Veerar (Hero of Vaikom) on Periyar.
  • Mahatma Gandhi insisted that it should be a local protest, requests to make it a pan-India movement failed.
  • Backed by the government and the administration, the traditionalists caused many troubles for the satyagrahis, which included counter rallies marked by violence.
  • The resolution for the right to sanchara was defeated in the Assembly by the open support of the traditionalists and the indirect pressure of the government.
  • Tamils, who went to participate in the protest, lent a helping hand to Keralites in favor of temple entry for all communities.

 

The Tamil role

  • Tamil Nadu played a pivotal role in Vaikom Satyagraha, which symbolized a struggle by the “untouchables”.
  • Periyar and Kovai Ayyamuthu, a firebrand leader, worked in tandem with leaders in Kerala.
    • But they faced repressive action.
  • There was a rally by the upper castes from Vaikom led by Mannathu Padmanabhan in favor of the protesters
    • Another rally in the south, in support of temple entry, led by Emperumal Naidu from Nagercoil.
  • Sivathanu Pillai, a leader from Nagercoil (which was a part of Travancore) spoke at the meeting that culminated at Trivandrum beach. There were also arrests.

 

Events during the movement:

  • Temple street entry movement that began on March 30, 1924 ended on November 23, 1925.
  • 19 leaders, including Periyar, Kesava Menon and K. Madhavan, were released on August 30, 1924.
  • The rally by the upper castes that began on November 1, reached Trivandrum on November 13, submitting its memorandum to the Queen regent.
  • The sanchara resolution was taken up for voting in the Assembly in February 1925, was defeated by a single vote.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, who was in Kerala, held talks with the Queen of Travancore, Narayana Guru, traditionalists and police commissioner W.H. Pitt.
  • On November 17, the satyagrahis announced their decision to withdraw their protest.
  • On November 23, the government of the Travancore princely state declared that people could enter three of the four streets around Vaikom temple, thus bringing the protest to an end.

 

Way Forward

  • The Kerala government has now decided to commemorate the movement by organizing various cultural events.
    • Tamil Nadu too is observing the occasion, as announced by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in the Assembly session.
  • A memorial for Periyar, being maintained by the Tamil Nadu government since 1994, may be the only structure for people in Tamil Nadu to understand what happened.
  • Vaikom is a symbol of social justice and symbolizes the eradication of caste barriers.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Are tolerance, assimilation and pluralism the key elements in the making of an Indian form of secularism? Justify your answer.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)