In the year 1919, after bidding goodbye to his business and public posts, Periyar joined the Indian National Congress. He also held the post of Chairman of Erode Municipality and sincerely undertook positive programs spreading the use of Khadi, picketing toddy shops, boycotting shops selling foreign cloth, and eradicating untouchability.
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy with Congress Party
In the year 1921, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy courted imprisonment for protesting toddy shops in Erode. When his sister as well as his wife joined the protests it gained the required momentum, and the management was forced to come to a mutual compromise. As a result he was arrested during the Non-cooperation movement and Temperance movement. In the year 1922, during the Tirupur session, Periyar was also elected as the President of Madras Presidency Congress Committee, where he advocated strongly for reservation in government jobs and education. His attempts were also defeated in the Congress party due to strong presence of indifference and discrimination, which of course led to him leaving the party in the year 1925.
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and Self-Respect Movement
Periyar during the early years of Self-Respect Movement campaigned hard to pressurize and influence the administration in government to take proper measures in order to remove social inequality, even while other nationalist forerunner focussed on the struggle for political independence. The self respect movement in Tamil Nadu was described from the beginning as "dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past". In the year 1952, Periyar Self-Respect Movement Institution was registered with the list of features and plans of the institution. Some of the features can be noted thus;
A. for the diffusion of useful knowledge of political education; B. to allow people to live a life of freedom from slavery to anything against reason and self respect; C. to do away with needless customs, meaningless ceremonies, and blind superstitious beliefs in society; D. to put an end to the present social system in which caste, religion, community and traditional occupations based on the accident of birth, have chained the mass of the people and created "superior" and "inferior" classes... and to give people equal rights; E. to completely eradicate untouchability and to establish a united society based on brother/sisterhood; F. to give equal rights to women; to prevent child marriages and marriages based on law favourable to one sect, to conduct and encourage love marriages, widow marriages, inter caste and inter-religious marriages and to have the marriages registered under the Civil Law; G. to establish and maintain homes for orphans and widows and to run educational institutions
Ever since 1925, Periyar was busy with the propagation of self respect movement. As a result the movement began to grow fast and also received the sympathy of heads of Justice Party from the very beginning.
Anti-Hindi Agitations by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
When Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari became the Chief Minister of the Madras State in the year 1937 he also compulsorily introduced Hindi language and Hindi literature in schools thereby igniting a series of anti-Hindi agitations. Several Tamil nationalists started vigorous agitation and in the process many people were also arrested. In the year, 1938, a slogan was raised - "Tamil Nadu for Tamilians". It was in protest against the introduction of Hindi at schools. He also explained that the introduction of Hindi was a severe ploy used by Aryans to infiltrate Dravidian culture. He further reason that introduction of Hindi would certainly make Tamils subordinate to Hindi-speaking North Indians. He said that introduction of Hindi would certainly stop the progress of Tamilians. It could also completely nullify or destroy the culture and progression of Tamils. Hence, cutting across party line, politicians from South India rallied in unison in their opposition to Hindi.
Periyar's Association with Justice Party and Formation of Dravidar Kazhagam
Justice party was founded in the year 1916 with the main objective to oppose the political and economic power of the Brahmin jati group. The main goal was to render justice to non-Brahmin groups. Hence, in order to propagate the idea, the non-Brahmin politicians began propagating an ideology of equality among non-Brahmin jati groups.
In the year 1937, Periyar prepared resistance through the Justice Party for the introdutin of Hindi language. After 1937, the Dravidian movement derived considerable support from the student community. In later years, opposition to Hindi played a big role in the politics of Tamil Nadu.
At a rally in the year 1944, Periyar, in his capacity as the leader of the Justice Party, declared that the party would henceforth be known as the Dravidar Kazhagam, or "Dravidian Association". However, a few who disagreed with Periyar started a splinter group, claiming to be the original Justice Party. This party was led by veteran Justice Party leader P. T. Rajan and survived till 1957.
Later Years in Politics for Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
Inspite of several warning from P. Kakkan, the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Periyar in the year 1956 organized procession to the Marina in order to burn pictures of the Hindu God - Lord Rama. Periyar was subsequently arrested and confined to prison. Protests and propaganda politics continued for Periyar and he was arrested many a time as well. On 24th December 1973, Periyar died at the age of 94.
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