Monday, September 14, 2020



          ( Remembering him on his 75th Death Anniversary falling on  September18th, 2020 )

                                                                                                                               By:- Er.H.R.Phonsa

Dewan Bahadur Srinivasan Rettanmalia a Dalit activist, politician, journalist and freedom fighter was from the Madras State. He was a close confidant of Baba Sahib Dr. Ambedkar. Both were invited to Round Table Conferences held at London in 1930-32 as the representatives of the Depressed Classes. Both were successful in their efforts to convince the British participants and other members of the conferences to remove social, economical and political barriers for progress of the untouchables. R.Srinivasan attended Ist and Second Rount Table Conference only.

               They did their assigned duty despite stiff opposition from caste Hindu leaders including, Mahatma Gandhi. Till then, Mahatma Gandhi the uncrowned king of Indian masses and his Congress Party claimed to be the sole leader of Indian masses including untouchables. Both Dr. Ambedkar and R. Srinivasan were forceful speakers and believed that removal of untouchability depends upon vesting of political power to depressed class masses. They pleaded that there was no alternative to it. They explicitly made clear that they wanted nothing less than separate electorate on the basis of adult suffrage as the first temporary measure immediately. Their joint point of view was accepted and resulted in establishment of Simon Commission. Later, due to adamancy and fast unto death by Mahatma Gandhi against Separate electorate to untouchables, Dr. Ambedkar and Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan agreed under duress for signing Poona Pact. Besides others both these Dalit leaders were signatory to Poona Pact 1932 which had provisions for granting reservation in services and in political seats for Dalits.

                  Mr. Srinivasan, an Adi-Dravida (Paraiyar) was born on 7 July 1859 at village Kozhalam in Madhauranthagam Taluka, Chengalpet district in Tamil Nadu of Madras Presidency. He was born to Mr. Rettanmalai, a poor farmer. Young Srinivasan besides school studies showed keen interest in painting. He was sent to Government Arts College, Coimbatore for further education. He qualified to become lawyer and also continued art and painting. He got employment on Hill Station of Nilgiri District where he met Colonel Olcott and Madam Blatvastky, who further guided the young Srinivasan. . He returned to Madras in 1880 and got married to Ms. Ranganyakkimma in 1887.

                Since Mr. Srinivasan was from a poor farming family, he had seen the miserable condition of poverty ridden people particularly untouchables including Paraiyars. So he decided to do some good things for Dalits. He vowed to fight against injustice meted out to them in social, religious, economic, education and political fields. He was brother-in-law to a great Dalit Leader of his times IyotheeThass or Pandit C. Ayodhaya Das (1845-1914).

                In order to organize his people Mr. Srinivasan established and led "Paraiyar Mahajan Sabha"1890. To bring all Dravidians under ambit of his sabha, he converted it to Adi-Dravida Mahajan Sabha in the year 1891, a broad based organization. This Sabha requested the government to change the Hindu name of Untouchables "Pariahs" to "Adi-Dravida"pleading that they were the original rulers of the land. The Provisional Legislative Council passed a resolution to recommend to the government the demands of the Sabha and name of Pariah was changed to Adi-Dravida in 1922. Adi-Dravida Mahajan Sabha submitted a resolution to the Simon Commission Chairman, Sir John Simon in 1927 to grant separate electorate for the depressed classes. Their chief spokes person then was Rao Bahadur M.C. Rajah (1883-1947).

Mr. Srinivasan convened in 1893, a conference of untouchables in Wesley School Royapetta, Madras, the first such conference then in whole of India. Mr. Srinivasan was convinced that political power was must for the Dalits. This could only ameliorate their miseries rooted in untouchability. The untouchability roots needed to be cut to free the untouchables from these centuries old stigma inflicted upon them by Hindu scriptures. The first conference of the untouchables was organized on 23 December 1893 and declared an "open war" on untouchability, caste system and superstitious religious myths. Continuing his efforts in this direction, he also started Tamil Newspaper named "The Partisan" in 1893, which started selling as monthly magazine for four annals (1/4th of a rupee) for four pages. His next conference of untouchables was held on 7th October 1895 in Madras at Victoria Hall. He was a participant in the freedom movement too and an arrest warrant was also issued on his name for joining the movement. In 1893 a case was filed against The Paraiyan news magazine and Mr. Srinivasan was dragged in the court. He was fined Rs 100 for his writings.

In 1904, Mr. Srinivasan went to South Africa and joined government service as a translator for the courts. During his stay in South Africa, he observed that a worse type of discrimination was observed against Blacks or original inhabitants of the continent. Apartheid "A social policy or racial, political social, economical, cultural, spiritual segregation against Blacks by the British Whites in South Africa " was in practice there. Here it was color or race as basis of discrimination. However, when Mr. Srinivasan observed this type of discrimination, he compared it with the religious discrimination observed with the untouchables of India by the Upper Caste or twice born people; he found it to be even worse. Mr. Srinivasan had seen the worse type of miseries being faced by the untouchables in India. Here he met with Mahatma Gandhi, who was an advocate for the Indian merchants in South Africa. It is said Mahatma Gandhi learnt Tamil language from R.Srinivasan. He taught Mahatma Gandhi putting his signature in Tamil as 'Mo. Ka. Gandhi' (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in Tamil). Mr. Srinivasan came back to India in 1920 to launch political fight to achieve, political, educational, social, employment rights for the Dalits with legal teeth.

Dewan Bahadur Mr. Srinivasan along with Dr. Ambedkar was nominated as representative of the Depressed Classes of India to the Round Table Conferences held during 1930-32 in London. They were instrumental in getting reservation, increase of seats in the legislature, bringing recognition to Dalit problems. Their arguments and capabilities of negotiations were incorporated in the Poona Pact1932. Both were signatories to Poona Pact along with others. This Pact was signed under duress by Dr. Ambedkar and Srinivasan due to fast unto death by the Mahatma Gandhi to save his life. Mr. Srinivasan continued his crusade against the ill treatment meted out to the Indian Dalits then called Depressed Classes. His work brought dividends when he was nominated to the Madras Legislative Council as a representative of the Depressed Classes from 1923 to 1935. This provided him with opportunities

to work with greater vigor, for securing several amenities and educational facilities for the Depressed Classes. When the Hindus organized a meeting in Mumbai on 30 September 1932, (a week after signing of the Poona Pact) to form an All-India Anti-Untouchability League, Mahatma Gandhi changed it to 'Servants of Untouchables Society'. It was on this occasion that the Hindus joined together to fight against untouchability. There were eight members on the board; Dr. Ambedkar, Rao Bahadur M.C.Rajah and R. Srinivasan were included as representatives of the untouchables. All three subsequently withdrew from the board, Gandhi then renamed it as Harijan SevakSangh. While explaining reasons to join this forum, Dr.Ambedkar said "After the Poona Pact, "I preceded in a spirit of forget and forgive. I accepted the Confides of Mr. Gandhi as I was asked to do by many of my friends". It was in that spirit that I accepted a place on the Central Board of the Sangh and was looking forward to play my part in its activities'. He wanted to discuss the programme of the Sangh with Gandhi but could not do so as he had to leave for London to participate in the Third Round Table Conference. However, Dr. Ambedkar did write a detailed letter to A.V. Thakkar, Secretary of the Society, giving concrete proposals regarding the services to be rendered by the Society. The Depressed classes representative wanted the forum to concentrate on a programme 'which will effect a change in the social environment of the Depressed Classes'. The programme drafted by Dr.Ambedkar had four components: (i) A campaign to secure civil rights; (ii) Equality of opportunity; (iii) Social intercourse and (iv An Agency to be employed to oversee all these points. The Society was to employ a large army of workers to carry out this programme. Persons belonging to the Depressed Classes were also to be appointed, who alone 'will regard the work as love's labour'. But the Anti-Untouchability League did not pay any attention to these proposals; they did not even acknowledge Dr. Ambedkar's letter. The Congress used the 'Harijan Sekva Sangh' to kill the movement of empowering untouchables, after the withdrawal of these three representatives

of the Depressed classes from the League. Sensing the crookedness of the minds of Hindus the Poona Pact was asked to be scraped by Dr Ambedkar on 5th November 1946 and demanded enactment of the separate electorates for the Dalits as per the communal Award.

Dewan Bahadur Mr. R. Srinivasan had differences on the conversion of untouchables to some other religion as pronounced by his leader Baba Sahib Ambedkar in 1935. However with the support of Dr Ambedkar, Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan established the Madras Province Scheduled Castes Federation in 1939. He passed away on 18th September, 1945.

The Government of India department of Posts in 2000  has issued commemorative stamp in memory of Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan. Cadres of the Viduthalai Siruthaigal Party claims to have discovered the mortal remains of Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan and constructed a memorial over the mortal remains naming it as Urimai-Kalam.

In early 2006, a Mani mandapam (memorial) for the late leader Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan was conceived within the premises of Gandhi Mandapam in Chennai. The complex is oldest memorial " Gandhi Mandapam" it was opened by Rajaji on January 27, 1956.Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan shall be long remembered for his services to the Dalit Samaj. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa had directed that his birth anniversary on 7 July be observed as a government function and ministers to honour him by garlanding his statue located inside Gandhi Mandapam, Chennai. Chief Minister Jayalailthaa has given a direction to this effect, according to an official release stated, "The birth anniversary of Dalit leader Rettamalai Srinivasan (1859-1945) will be observed every year on 7 July by the State government". Dewan Bahadur R. Srinivasan brought recognition to the problems of the Dalits in a big way also providing their solution in the Constitution of Free India.

   Words 1760                                                              Er.H.R.Phonsa


 Material Source :

 1.Dalit Movement In India and Its Leaders(1857-1956). By.  K.R. Kshirsagar

  2. Dr.Ambedkar and His Associates By: Er. H.R. Phonsa

  3 Dr.Ambedkar Jiwan Ate Mission ( Punjabi) By. L.R.Bali

  4. Dr.Ambedkar, life and Mission By: Dhananajay Keer

  5. Dr.Ambedkar Messiah Of Down Trodden By:  Janak Singh

    6. Last Few years of Dr.Ambedkar By: N.C.Rattu



No comments:

Post a Comment