EeVeRa, is short for Erode Venkata Ramasamy (September 17, 1879 – December 24, 1973). He was a social activist, politician and businessman in Tamilnadu, India.
An array of regional political parties under the canopy “Dravidian” dominate the current political arena in Tamilnadu. These parties trace their origins and ideologies to the Dravidian movement launched by EeVeRa.
The Indian population is still classified as Aryans or Dravidians based on language families, but genetic research does not confirm this. According to this classification the North Indian languages are Aryan, and the South Indian languages are Dravidian.
The term ‘Aryan’ as a race was first propounded by Friedrich Max Müller. He was a German-born philologist and Orientalist, connected with the East India Company. He lived and studied in Britain for most of his life. In 1853, he conjectured that a group of people called Aryans had invaded India in 1500 BC. The British colonialists of the period and Thomas Macaulay, a member of the Supreme Council of India, supported Max Mülle’s hypothesis. Macaulay asserted that there was a need to develop a breed of Indians “who would be Indian by blood and colour, but Western by morals and intellect”.
During the British rule, the former Indian state of Madras Presidency consisted of almost all regions of today’s Tamilnadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh. At that time, the British, and the Indians schooled in the British system, opined that the Dravidian languages were inferior to the Aryan languages. Sanskrit, a classical language of the Aryan group, was considered sacred.
In the early 20th century, the Brahmins occupied the highest strata in the Indian caste system. They dominated the political scene in South India. Though only 3% of the population in Madras Presidency, they held 60 to 79% of the positions in major government departments.
At that time, many non-Brahmin leaders in the south asserted that Brahmins were Aryans as defined by Max Müller and hence non-natives. They claimed the Brahmins had occupied positions in the government that rightly belonged to the people indigenous to the region. This claim compounded with an antipathy towards Sanskrit spurred on the animosity against the Brahmins. This hostility directed at the Brahmins gave rise to Dravidian politics in Madras Presidency.
The Justice Party
In 1917, Sir Pitti Theagaraya Chetty, Dr. T. M. Nair, O. Thanikachalam Chettiar, and Dr. C. Natesa Mudaliar founded the Justice Party to represent the non-Brahmins in the Madras Presidency. It soon became the main political alternative to the Indian National Congress (INC) in the Madras Presidency.
In 1920, the Justice Party won the first direct elections in the Madras presidency and formed the government. During the next 17 years, it formed four out of the five governments and was in power for 13 years. In the 1937 election, it lost to the Congress and never recovered afterwards.
The Justice Party, by its many controversial activities, seemed isolated in Indian politics.
- Its anti-Brahmin attitude shaped many of its ideas and policies.
- It opposed the appointment of Brahmins in the civil service.
- It was against the participation of Brahmins in politics.
- It campaigned against the non-cooperation movement in the presidency.
- It was at odds with M. K. Gandhi, primarily due to his praise for Brahminism.
- Its mistrust of the Brahmin-dominated INC, led the Justice Party to adopt a hostile stand towards the Indian independence movement.
Though the Justice Party pledged to represent all non-Brahmins, it eventually lost the support of Muslims and Untouchables. They accused the Justice Party of serving the interests of only a few castes such as the Vellalars, Mudaliars, Pillais, Balija Naidus, Beri Chettis, Kapus and Kammas.
The Self-Respect Movement
E.V. Ramasamy was born in Erode, Madras Presidency to a wealthy family of Balijas. The Balija is a social group that spread across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
At a young age, EeVeRa witnessed many incidents of racial, caste and gender discrimination. He married his first wife, Nagammai when he was 19.
EeVeRa was a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) party. In 1925, he broke away from INC and formed the Self Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement. The Self-Respect Movement claimed to promote interests similar to the Justice Party. In addition EeVeRa proposed the creation of an independent state called Dravida Nadu, comprising the four states of South India: Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu.
Nagammai, died in 1933.
In 1938, the Justice Party came under the leadership of E. V. Ramaswamy and his Self-Respect Movement.
In 1944, EeVeRa withdrew the Justice Party from electoral politics. He changed the name of the party to Dravidar Kazhagam, a social organization.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality by eradicating the ills of the existing caste system including untouchability. Later on, Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency. And, on a grander scale Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to create a “Dravida Nadu” (Dravidian nation) and do away with the Madras Presidency.
Thus, the roots of Dravidar Kazhagam lie with the Justice party and the Self-Respect Movement.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality, and later wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency.
The Dravidian politics of Dravidar Kazhagam found support only in Tamilnadu.
EeVeRa married for a second time in July 1948. His second wife, Maniammai, continued Periyar’s social work after his death in 1973.
I came across a snippet in Tamil on Facebook, alleged to Periyar. It impressed me, and I rewrote it in English. It is not a direct translation.
One Who Uses God as a Weapon Is a Terrorist!
There are no gods!
Gods do not exist!
The person who preaches gods is a Philistine.
One who believes in gods is a simpleton.
One who spreads the idea of gods is a charlatan.
1. How did gods come into existence?
2. How did gods get an image?
3. And what need is there for a god to have a human form?
4. How did so many gods come to exist?
5. How did these gods get wives, children, and lovers?
6. After that, how did the wives, children and lovers become gods?
7. How did these gods get houses, jewellery, clothing, food, etc.?
8. Why did these gods wage war against humans and other creatures, and why kill them?
9. How did these gods get a rank on a scale of importance?
10. Aside from these, how did wells, pools, ponds, rivers etc., become gods?
11. How did these wells, ponds, pools, rivers get a varying range of godlike powers?
12. How much time, money, and effort do humans spend on these entities they call gods?
13. Just compare yourself with the once naked Aryans that ate vegetables and creatures in the raw, and cohabited with their own mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of how they were related. See how they have attained intellectual progress now! What is your state today?
13. Compare yourself with the once naked Aryans who ate vegetables and creatures, raw, and cohabited with their mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of relationship. See how great their intellectual progress is; and, what is your status now?
O human, just ponder over these points.