Periyar

  • Leaders broadly fall into two categories – One category makes situations favourable to them and sail in it. The other category goes against popular opinion to explore the truth and the real needs of the society. Needless to say, Periyar falls into the second category. Amidst leaders who spoke what the people wanted to hear, Periyar spoke what people ‘needed’ to hear.
  • Generally, Periyar is associated only with Tamil Nadu. But the reality is that he has inspired people around the world to fight injustice and discrimination. To summarize his philosophy, if a bigger nation threatens the livelihood of a smaller nation, he would automatically side with the interests of the smaller nation. If the minority of that smaller nation are threatened by the majority of the nation, he would automatically side with the minority. If within the minority religion, a class is oppressed by another class of the same religion, he would side with the oppressed class. If within the class, one employee oppresses another, he would stand with the oppressed employee. If the oppressed employee oppresses the women of his house, Periyar would stand with the oppressed women.
  • If we had to summarise his life in a nutshell, it would be ‘creating a society with humanity’. He regarded social constructs such as caste, religion, and God as concepts that fueled the beast inside humans. He thus opposed such concepts and inspired people to chase away such beasts to find humanity.
  • What is Periyar’s role in shaping national politics? Let’s say he did not even agree with the word ‘Nation’. He regarded Nationality as the last resort of criminals. But that did not stop him from voicing out for the oppressed sects throughout the country. A fine example would be his stance on the Kashmir issue – “Who are you to decide the fate of Kashmir? Who gave you the right to decide on behalf of them? The right of deciding Kashmir’s fate lies neither with India nor with Pakistan. It lies with Kashmir and only with Kashmir.” In fact, this is more of a solution than of a stance.
  • Indian history has seen two prominent people who actively opposed the government – Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar. Both of them advocated the concept of minimum government. Though both of them didn’t have a friendship that was strengthened by physical meetings, they had a bond bridged by similar thought processes. Periyar has never addressed Gandhi without the prefix of ‘Mahatma’. When Gandhi was assassinated, Periyar suggested renaming India as ‘Gandhi Desam’, which means Gandhi’s country.
  • India is the land that birthed quite a few renowned epics and various literature that stemmed from these epics. In fact, India’s other name, ‘Bharath’ also has references to such epics. Though the literature and the heritage they gave us are pride-worthy, they also seem to glorify concepts such as caste-based discrimination and oppression of the female race. Also, most of these epics bore things that the scientific community would not agree with. A leader who wants to win merely votes would not oppose the ill effects such epics had on our society. But Periyar didn’t get into the political arena for something as basic as votes. He entered politics to free people from the oppression such systems sowed in our country in the name of culture and tradition. And his political career shows us just that!
  • Periyar’s strongest move was preaching rationality over beliefs. Most of his speeches and writings were centred on intelligence. ‘Not believing in a mythical figure is what takes intelligence. Blindly believing tales and lores doesn’t require intelligence’, ‘Rationality is above your scriptures, traditions, and other potatoes you have been led to believe’, ‘Turn a deaf ear to the words of God, saints, incarnations, etc. Believe only what your rational thinking says’- these are some of the excerpts from his famous speeches and writings.
  • A lot of people criticised Periyar on the grounds of morality. But what is morality? If tearing the stomach of a woman of an oppressed class, to abort her child is ‘morality’, Periyar did not want any of that morality. If ‘morality’ was burning down the huts of oppressed people, Periyar would rather not have that morality. To Periyar, morality was behaving how you would want others to behave. By this definition, Periyar was certainly a rare person with such uncompromising moral values.
  • It is impossible to win Periyar at a debate. If someone came to him and said, “God has blessed me well, so I worship him to thank him. What is your problem with that?”, he would reply, “He has done nothing but bad to me, so I am scolding him. What is your problem with that?”. Another famous dialogue of his is “I do not have any personal problem with God. I haven’t seen him even once to have a problem with him.” Many from the cine domain wonder from whom did Anna and Karunanidhi inherit their dialogue-writing skills. The answer to that is Periyar.
  • Many may have opposed his principles and preachings. But if there is one race who would absolutely agree with his leadership, it is the female race. There are very few who have analysed feminism at such a microscopic level. He detested the terms husband-wife. He insisted that a marriage is a union of equals, therefore those who are married should be addressed as ‘life partners’. His book ‘Pen yaen adimaiyaanaal’, which means ‘Why did the woman become the slave’, is something that even his opposers can’t help but admire.
  • While it is true that we cannot limit Periyar’s effect to Tamil Nadu alone, it is an undeniable fact that he is the root for Tamil Nadu’s progress. His idea ‘Class-wise Representation’ is the main reason for welfare measures reaching all sects of the state. So when someone says, ‘It is due to Periyar that I received education’, ‘It is due to Periyar that I was able to succeed’, they mean it.
  • ‘Everyone dies. But that doesn’t mean that his deeds and consequences of his actions die with him.’ – these are the words of Periyar. How true that is! His death anniversary, 24th December, is an important date for his followers. Periyar may have died, but Periyarism has not and will not die. Even when the world is doomed and the entire population dwindles down to 3 people, the third person will be a Periyarist who stands with the oppressed of the remaining 2 people.