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Tamil Nadu Govt to celebrate Periyar E. V. Ramasamy’s birth anniversary as Social Justice Day

Tamil Nadu Govt to celebrate Periyar E. V. Ramasamy’s birth anniversary as Social Justice Day


  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Other Aspects of Governance || Good Governance

Why in the news?

  • The Tamil Nadu government has decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of reformist leader E V Ramasamy Periyar “Social Justice Day”.
  • Every year, on September 17, employees in all government offices and State Secretariat will take pledges to follow values based on such lofty ideals consisting of equality, brotherhood, self-respect, and rationalism.


  • E V Ramasamy Periyar was born on September 17. This day will now be celebrated as ‘Social Justice Day’ every year.

Who was E V Ramasamy Periyar?

  • Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy was born on September 17,  1879, in Erode, then a part of the Coimbatore district of the Madras Presidency.
  • He was commonly known as Periyar or Thanthai Periyar which in Tamil means ‘respected one’ or ‘elder’. He was also popularly referred to as Thanthai Periyar.
  • He was an Indian social activist, social reformer, and politician who began the Self-Respect Movement and founded the Dravidar Kazhagam. Periyar fought against Brahminical dominance and gender and caste inequality in Tamil Nadu.
  • Periyar died on December 24, 1973, at the age of 94 in Tamil Nadu.

Contributions of EV Ramasamy –Periyar

  • He was an Indian social activist and politician.
  • Father of the Dravidian Movement-Periyar played an instrumental role in the implementation of the first Constitutional Amendment Act that safeguarded reservation for backward classes. He was also known as the ‘Father of the Dravidian Movement’ who founded the Dravidar Kazhagam.He rebelled against the Brahmanical dominance as well as gender & caste inequality in Tamil Nadu.
  • As a member of Congress Party-Periyar started his political career as a Congress worker. V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1919 but resigned in 1925 after he realized that INC was only serving the interests of Brahmins. E.V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919. He disagreed with Gandhi over the question of separate dining for Brahmin and non-Brahmin students.
  • Vaikom satyagraha(1924-1925)-Vaikom Satyagraha was a satyagraha in Travancore, Kerala against untouchability in Hindu society.
    • The Satyagraha was aimed at securing the freedom of all sections of society through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom.
    • Kelappan played a dominant role in the Vaikom Satyagraha and was also the leader of the Guruvayur Satyagraha in 1932.
    • Gandhiji, Chattampi Swamikal, and Sree Narayana Guru had also supported the movement. Further, Periyar also came from Tamil Nadu to support the movement.
    • The other prominent leaders in the movement include T K Madhavan, Velayudha Menon, K Neelakantan Namboothiri, T R Krishnaswami Iyer, and George Joseph
    • The movement managed to open the roads around the temple for their use. The temple entry movement gained momentum after this.
  • Self-respect movement: The Self-Respect Movement was dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past.
    • It aimed to achieve a society where backward castes have equal human rights and encouraged backward castes to have self-respect in the context of a caste-based society that considered them to be a lower end of the hierarchy.
    • It was founded in 1925 by S. Ramanathan who invited Periyar to head the movement in Tamil Nadu.
  • As a President of Justice Party-A political party known as the South Indian Libertarian Federation (commonly referred to as Justice Party) was founded in 1916.
    • It was formed to principally oppose the economic and political power of the Brahmin groups.
    • The party’s goal was to render social justice to the non-Brahmin groups. Periyar took over the leadership of the party in 1938.
  • Dravidar Kazhagam –In the 1940s, Periyar launched a political party, Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), which espoused an independent Dravida Nadu comprising Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada speakers.
  • A Social reformer-Periyar stood for causes of social equality, self-respect, cultural and gender inequalities, and questioned matters of gender and tradition. As a social reformer, he contributed largely towards the social transformation of Tamil Nadu.
    • As a social reformer, he focused on social, cultural, and gender inequalities, and his reform agenda questioned matters of faith, gender, and tradition.
  • Champion of Women’s rights-He insisted that women need to be independent and be allowed an equal share in employment. He sanctioned property as well as divorce rights for women.
  • Periyar died in 1973 at the age of 94. Over the years, Periyar is revered as Thanthai Periyar, the father figure of modern Tamil Nadu. 

Gandhi and Periyar

  • In the Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924, Periyar and Gandhi Ji both cooperated and confronted each other in socio-political action.
  • Periyar and his followers emphasized the difference in point of view between Gandhi and himself on social issues, such as fighting the Untouchability Laws and eradication of the caste system. According to the booklet “Gandhi and Periyar”, Periyar wrote in his paper Kudi Arasu in 1925, reporting on the fact that Gandhi was ousted from the Mahasabha because he opposed resolutions for the maintaining of caste and Untouchability Laws which would spoil his efforts to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity. Peiryar in his references to Gandhi used opportunities to present Gandhi as, on principle, serving the interests of the Brahmins.
  • The main difference between them came out when Periyar stood for the total eradication of Hinduism to which Gandhi objected saying that Hinduism is not fixed in doctrines but can be changed.
  • Gandhi accepted karma in the sense that “the Untouchables reap the reward of their karma, but was against discrimination against them using the revaluing term Harijans. As shown in the negotiations at Vaikom his methods for abolishing discrimination were: to stress on the orthodox, inhumane treatment of Untouchables; to secure voluntary lifting of the ban by changing the hearts of caste Hindus, and to work within a Hindu framework of ideas.
  • On the Temple Entry issue, Gandhi never advocated the opening of Garbha Griha to Harijans in consequence of his Hindu belief. These sources can be labeled “pro-Periyar” except M. Mahar and D.S. Sharma, clearly shows that Periyar and his followers emphasized that Periyar was the real fighter for the removal of Untouchability and the true upliftment of Harijans, whereas Gandhi was not. This did not prevent Periyar from having faith in Gandhi on certain matters.

Ambedkar And Periyar

  • Ambedkar and Periyar believed the plight of the oppressed was due to the caste system which was deeply embedded in Hinduism in the form of the Varna system. For the welfare of the oppressed, religion itself needed abolition.
  • They fought ardently against the rigid caste system and Hinduism. They were against Brahmanism as it empowered the Brahmins to subdue the oppressed.
  • Both were apprehensive about the end of British rule since this would have left their people at the mercy of Congress which was considered to be pro-Hindus.
  • Along with Jinnah, they wanted independent nations for their people but only Jinnah succeeded.
  • They advocated a classless society for the nation’s growth.
  • They were critical of Gandhi and Congress, they felt the Gandhian concept of Democracy meant the preservation of caste structure.
  • They believed in empowering the oppressed via education. They advocated social emancipation before politics. Both worked for women’s emancipation.
  • However, they did share ideological differences too -Ambedkar embraced Buddhism because he did not want to be a part of a religion that had so many evils. Whereas, Periyar remained a Hindu because staying so gave him the right to criticize the religion. Ambedkar focussed on national reconstruction with the emancipation of the oppressed. Periyar worked regionally in the South. Periyar remained a social reformer while Ambedkar also became a political reformer.

Relevance of Periyar’s ideology in the current scenario

  • Periyar’s ideology was based on social justice, equality, self-esteem, and rationalism. This laid the groundwork for the development of Tamil society over the last century.
  • Dravidar Kazhagam was more of a social movement than that of a political party. From fighting the taboo against widowhood, encouraging their remarriage, and continuing the struggle against casteism to asserting the idea of social justice, the Dravidar Kazhagam is carrying forward what Periyar stood for
  • These ideologies would pave the way for the future as well. As a result, the government decided to commemorate his birth anniversary every year as a symbolic reinforcement of his egalitarian principles.

Mains model Question

  • What were the key objectives of the Self Respect Movement? Critically evaluate the success of this movement and its contribution by Periyar.