Ambedkar King Study Circle
Progressive organizations in San Francisco bay area had come together to commemorate the 140th birth anniversary of Periyar E.V Ramasamy in Cupertino, California, USA on Sep 22, Saturday. Around 80 people with families and kids attended the program to remember the legendary social reformer Periyar.
Dr Vaa Geetha, who addressed the gathering over a video call from India, talked of ‘Periyar: A Model Public Life’. She differentiated Periyar’s pubic intellectual life from that of the lives of other intellectuals hailing from the Savarna communities, and said Periyar’s street activism is the combination of intellectualism and pragmatism. She added that Periyar always saw equality and self-respect together. Interesting to note that Periyar was comfortable in sharing dais with the people who held diametrically opposite positions from him and was willing to challenge and to be challenged publically. He boldly declared that he was even ready to share dais with the Sankaracharya, a head of the Hindu religion. She remarked it’s a good development to see his writings are being translated into other Indian languages, especially Hindi. Such reach will facilitate challenging of Hindutva ideologically at an all India level.
Dr Victor, author of more than 100 books and having in-depth knowledge about Tamil literature, said that Tamil Nadu had produced leaders like Periyar, thanks to her progressive society since Sangam time i.e., 2000 years ago. He affirmed the word Caste (Jati) was unknown during the Sangam period and birth based inequality is new to Tamil land, and not seen earlier than 4th century AD. He recalled the anti-caste activism and movement in pre-Periyar era, especially by Ayothidasar who published magazines like ‘Dravidan’ and ‘One Penny Tamizhan’, and connected them with the rise of Periyar’s legacy.
Mr Mani M Manivannan, Human Resources Manager by profession and scholar in linguistic and social studies by interest, vividly narrated Periyar’s radical life and the conspicuous changes it made in Tamil Society. He drew an interesting parallel in his own family: that the educated and professional class members of his family become insensitive to Periyar’s ideology whereas farming class members of his family still celebrate Periyar and emotionally connected with him! Periyar exhorted the OBCs not to trust the Brahmins in the latter’s liberation, he exhorted women not to trust men in their liberation and he exhorted the Dalits not to trust OBCs in their liberation and encouraged each oppressed group to build independent leaders among themselves and always referred to Dr. B.R Ambedkar as such a leader. Mr. Mani exclaimed that if Periyar’s position on women’s liberation and social justice is still considered radical in 2018, then how about in the 1930s!
The question and answer session that followed the speeches was insightful. Periyar’s atheism, his critique of Tamil language, his position on the emancipation of Dalits, his radical ideas on women’s liberation, on who are the defenders of Periyar’s ideology and who can carry forward his vision and mission now, and why the land of Periyar is witnessing honor killings.
Mr. Chaitanya Diwadkar welcomed the gathering. Mr. V Kesava, Ms Rajalakshmi and Mr. Ashutosh Lanjewar introduced the speakers–Dr Vaa Geetha, Dr. Victor and Mr. Mani M Manivannan. Ms Shanthi Kathiresan delivered the vote of thanks and Mr. Selvaraj anchored the overall program.
The program was jointly organized by the Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPnJC), Association for India’s Development (AID), Bay Area, Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), Ambedkar International Mission (AIM), Ambedkar International Center (AIC) and Kabila Pari Friendship Study Circle (KPFSC) and American Tamil Radio (ATR).
[Via Karthikeyan Shanmugam]