Monday, June 21, 2021

Mahatma Ayyankali—

He brought Revolution by Ridding Bullock Cart on Kerala Roads Mahatma Ayyankali—(28 August,1863 to 18 June, 1941) (Remembering the Great Kerla Revolutionay on his 80 the Death Anniversary falling on 18th June,2021 ) By: Er.H.R.Phonsa ( Mob: +919419134060 • The socio economic condition of Dalits in Kerala was very dangerously risky and unsafe. At the same time it has a long history of social reforms too. All Indian Dalit leaders including Mahatama Jyotiba Phuley , Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, E. V. R. Periyar, Sree Narayana Guru, Padmanabhan Palpu and many more struggled for social system change where Dalits get back their lost dignity. They said if social system is restored others things shall follow it . No economic and educational progress can restore back lost dignity and honour of Dalit communities with out social system reforms. Mahatma Ayyankali Shri Narayan Swami Padmanabhan Palpu , Kumaran Asan, Rao Sahib Ayyathan Gopalan with some more were nineteenth and twentieth century’s pioneers among Dalits leaders of Kerala. They relentlessly worked for emancipation of Dalit castes. Mahatma Ayyankali was born on 28th August 1863 in Venganoor, Thiruvananthapuram, Travancore . Venganoor is a very ordinary village near southern end of Kerala and is situated 13 km south of Thiruvananthapuram. He was one of seven children of his parents, who were the Pulaya considered untouchables/Dalits. He remained illiterate through out of his life in respect of school education, but played a vital role in cleansing the Hindu society of social evils. The Pulayar, also Pulayar, Pulaya, or Pulayas or Holeya or Cherumar, are an untouchable caste forming one of the main social groups in modern day Kerala and Karnataka as well as in historical Tamil Nadu or Tamilakam. In 2001 censes there were 68 Scheduled Castes in Kerala. The Scheduled Caste (SC) population of Kerala State as per 2011 census was 3,039,573 constituting 9.10 percent of the total state population of (3,34,06,061) . The Scheduled castes were clubbed as 99.9% Hindu, with a negligible number of Sikhs and Buddhists. There were 35 Scheduled Tribes, comprising 1.45% of the population and with 93.7% being clubbed as Hindus, were socially miles away from truth. The population of Pulayas in Kerala in 2001 was1,041,540 ,which worked out 3.27% of total population of this state also forming 33.3 percent of the total SC population of the State. This shows clearly that Scheduled caste population persons were predominantly Low caste Hindus with a substantial number of sub castes. The curse of sub castes is that every sub caste has a caste below it and a caste above, which mars their chances of uniting hands for unified efforts to cut their social slavery chains. The Scheduled Castes are overwhelmingly rural with 81.8 percent residing in rural areas. Pulayars are noted for their music, craftsmanship, and for certain dances which include Kōlam-thullal, a mask dance which is part of their exorcism rituals (evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person, or an area) as well as the Mudi-attam or hair-dance which has its origins in a fertility ritual. Many of Pulayars were practicing hakims (Doctors) in Ayurvedic system of medication. As per Hindu social segregation and hate principles created by Higher Caste personsnwho also made religious laws, which debarred the untouchables to walk through public roads. Low caste women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places. Their children were not allowed access to education. They were ridden under debit from business community or Vaishyas. Anybody who challenged these harsh laws against lower castes. However Social and religious reformists like Shri Narayana Guru,(1856-1928) , Ayyankali resisted inhuman prevailing situation. This grim situation prompted Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) to call Kerala a “lunatic asylum”. Robin Jeffrey, professor specializing in the modern history and politics of India quotes the wife of a Christian missionary, who wrote in 1860 that------... a Nair can approach but not touch a Namboodiri Brahmin: a Chovan [Ezhava Now OBC] must remain thirty-six paces off, and a Pulayan slave ninety-six steps distant. A Chovan must remain twelve steps away from a Nair, and a Pulayan sixty-six steps off, and a Parayan some distance farther still. A Syrian Christian may touch a Nair, though this was not allowed in some parts of the country, but the later may not eat with each other. Pulayans and Parayars, who are the lowest of all, can approach but not touch; much less may they eat with each other. Their entry in all Hindu temples was banned. When all other means of begging mercy and persuading peaceful means for change failed they resorted to satyagrah, a peaceful non violent protest known as Vaikom Satyagraha The Vaikom Satyagraha , 30th March,1924 to November,1925, by untouchables was the first systematically organized agitation in Kerala against orthodoxy to secure the rights to depressed classes. For the first time in history, the agitation brought forward the question of civil rights of the low caste people into the forefront of Indian politics. No mass agitation in Kerala acquired so much all-India attention and significance in the twentieth century as the Vaikom Satyagraha. Vaikom is a small temple town in North Travancore on the eastern banks of the backwaters of Vembanad Lake. The town is famous for its Shiva temple, which in the early twentieth century was the castle of orthodoxy and casteism. As was the custom prevalent in those days, the Avarnas or untouchables were not allowed to enter the temples. But at Vaikom, they were not permitted even to use the public roads around the temple even after 60 years of the1865 order of Government of Travancore that all public roads in the state were open to all castes of people alike. This order was reaffirmed in July 1884. Besides Narayana Guru his disciple T. K. Madhavan, E. V. Ramasami Periyar, Mannathu Padmanabhan and, women activists like Nagamma with Mrs. Joseph, Mrs. T. K. Madhavan and Mrs. Govindan Channar participated. In1888 Ayyankali got married to Chellamma. They had seven children. Their only daughter Thankamma was later married to TT Keshavan Sasthri, speaker of Kerala Assembly. Mahatama Ayyankali played very important role in organizing and continuing this historic satyagrah. Congress and Mahatama Gandhi were also approached, who tried to solve the controversy in their own way. They said it was a local problem of Hindus and they should solve it amicably by themselves. Their mediation resulted in blocking some roads leading to temple permanently for Dalits. The struggle resulted because of adamancy of Brahmins in blocking temple entry for Dalits so how could M.K. Gandhi and his congress imagine that now they will agree to the view point of Dalits on this account. As ever before he toed the line of Upper caste superstitious Hindus. Gandhi himself was staunch follower of Churverna as permanent division of Hindus into four castes. However Pulayar, Chovan [Ezhava] , Chovan were out castes say lowest of low( present OBC’s).This satyagrah infused in Dalits a sense of unity and brother hood and restored faith in leadership of Dalit leaders .The Dalit leaders with saints felt they were not alone, so they stroked harder on existing caste system which had denied social , political, educational,human and economic rights to Dalits. Then Dalits were debarred from using public roads, not to speak of their entry into schools, market places, natural water sources and public places. Mahatama Ayyankali started his uprising by daring to ride his bullock cart into the market through the public roads of Venganoor. He was fuming by his overconfidence. The upper-caste Hindus physically attacked him. But that did not discourage him from reaching his goal. His valor encouraged other Dalits to throw off the restraints of slavery. Mahatama Ayyankali also led a group of Pulaya youngsters to the village market. Inspired by him, other Dalits throughout southern Kerala launched a movement for civil rights. There dedication to movement brought fruits of success in 1900 when the Travancore Dalits won the right to walk along the public roads. Mahatama Ayyankali knew that lack of education to Dalits was the root cause of their poverty and hate. Although the Christian missionaries had opened schools for all. The Basel Mission (a Christian missionary society active from 1815 to 2001 with a slogan of “Education without discrimination,”) opened special schools for Dalits from 1893. But still much was needed to be done on this front, So Ayyankali opened a school to teach Dalit families children of Venganoor. Unfortunately his school was set ablaze by a group of upper-caste people. Rather than losing hope, Ayyankali launched another mass movement to ensure the right to education for all Dalits. Like his previous movement, this one was successful when in 1907 the Travancore government passed an order mandating that all Dalit children be admitted into public schools. Mahatma Ayyankali warned upper caste land lords saying “If our kids are not allowed to enter your schools, your paddies will grow mere weeds.” But many government officials whose views were stained by caste bias tried their best to annul 1907 order. This led to a clash between them and Ayyankali. After a tussle of three years the order was released to the public in 1910. Still the upper caste Hindus remained adamant on their religious norms of hate and suppression to Dalits. They opposed the higher education to Dalits, both touchable and untouchables. Bal Gangadhar Tilak is on record to have said in one of his speech dated 11November, 1917 ( Javatmal Maharashtra) “ would the tailors use sewing machine, the peasants that plough and the merchants the scale of balance in the council” Tilak & congress party stood for the Backward classes peopled to follow their ancestral trades, where only elementary educationwas needed. On 15 April,1920 Chhatarpati Sahu Ji Maharaj ruler of Kohlapur state and himself an OBC replied thus to Tilak, “ Tilak would have been ashamed of expressing such thoughts in his speech Brahmin V/s Brahmantra . Tilak advised untouchables not to take higher education. He wanted them to learn the crafts of their castes, thus he believed in constitution of the caste profession for the untouchables and not in giving them the higher education to be officers in government administration. Even before the establishment of any workers organizations in Kerala by the communist, Mahatma Ayyankali pioneered a movement for democratizing public places and asserting the rights of workers. Soon his movement became a movement of the untouchables in Kerala. He continuously associated himself with genuine social reformers who were aiming to restructure the degenerated Hindu society. This work of Ayyankali was so much appreciated and later he was nominated to the assembly known as the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly ( SMPA) or Praja Sabha of Travancore in 1910, by the then rulers as a mark of recognition of his leadership abilities. In the assembly, the higher caste members who laughed at Ayyankali being an illiterate from low-caste were wonder struck to listen the full of wisdom speeches of Mahatma Ayyankali. He was articulate speaker. Many upper caste educated members with their caste prides were no match to him. With the opening of educational institution for Dalits, several missionaries based in Kerala were asking the untouchables to accept Christianity in order to escape caste discrimination. When Ayyankali was apprised of this situation, he questioned the missionaries as to why the numerous Syrian Christians who were already residing in the state practiced caste-based prejudices; Ayyankali disapproved lured conversion to Christianity saying it will not do untouchables any good. The dedicated work of Ayyankali received support from his well-wishers, Ayyankali established Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (SJPS) to help the Dalits by providing them education, finance and legal support. This most powerful welfare organization of Ayyankali’s coined the slogan ‘Progress through education and organization.’ Within a short period it had nearly a thousand branches in all parts of Kerala. Even some good hearted upper-castes people came forward to donate land for SJPS to setup offices. Besides Narayana Guru and Ayyankali Shri Chandran Kumarath Krishanan (1867-1938),T.K. Madhavan(1886-1930) , Swami Sathyavrathan and Kottukoikal Velayudhan with many others helped in changing the prevailing grim situation. In 1893, he rode a bullock cart (villuvandi) with brass bells, draping a white lungi, white vest, a matching shawl, a white turban, along with a thick moustache. As riding animal carts was considered as an upper-caste prerogative in Kerala, Ayyankali’s “Pulaya cart” attracted the wrath of caste oligarchs who tried to stop him at many places, leading to violent clashes. His direct action against caste atrocities also shook the docility( meekness ) of Dalit communities that heavily depended on upper castes for jobs and food ( Ref: Scroll. in). Both Shri Narayana Guru and, Ayyankali asked the Hindu society to reform itself in order to save it from dissolution. Ayyankali gave his unflinching support to the efforts taken by the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha to eradicate caste prejudices. Ayyankali’s dedicated efforts against caste prejudices are beautifully described in the 1926 statement of famous historian N K Venkateswaran:“Pulayas are awakening at a rapid rate. They have a representative in the Praja Sabha. The angel of change has waved a torch over this land. The sparks from the torch will coalesce ( to Come together) to become a fiery flood. The old moth eaten social mores would be cleansed by fire. They will sit alongside those who call themselves ‘high ones’. They have already taken the initiative in organizing meetings and putting forward their just demands. It is a pleasing sight to watch their future culture on the rise.” He took on the Caste apartheid dress code for Dalit women where Caste Hindus insisted Dalit women could not cover their upper bodies. His challenge overturned this measure in 1916 and sent a message that the upper caste sexual exploitation of Dalit communities was unacceptable. Alas at an age of 78 on June 18, 1941, this daring son of Kerala passed away leaving behind a legacy of social reform, progress honour to all. Department of Post, the government of India, issued commemorative postage stamp on Ayyankali on 12 Aug. 2002, acknowledging the role he played in the social movement in India. Still this servant of humanity is not known to the vast majority of Indians out side Kerala. Now that the PM has made a historical gesture by honoring Mahatma Ayyankali on his 150th birthday celebrations and so whole of India got to know the life and teachings of this social reformist and a saint. On 8 September 2014 was a historic moment when the celebration of Dalit icon Mahatma Ayyankali’s birth anniversary was attended by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narinder Modi . Shri Modi said that Mahatma Ayyankali was one of those renowned social reformers who played a vital role in cleansing the Hindu society of social evils. Let us hope that the efforts made by many dedicated visionary personalities for the upliftment of the deprived section of masses is carried by the new generations till the goal of equal human rights is not reached. Mahatma Ayyankali will be long remembered for his selfless services rendered to those whom upper caste dominated governments were also biased for long. Words 2520 Er. H. R. Phonsa Dated 19 June,2021 Material source:- Google and Wikipedia 2. Dalit Movement in India and its Leaders By R.K.Kashirsagar 3.

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