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The Five-Pronged Battle Of Periyar For An Egalitarian Society

The Five-Pronged Battle Of Periyar For An Egalitarian Society

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Justice P. Venugopal, with his knowledge of law, erudition and analytical thinking has gone deep into the relentless fight waged by Periyar for ensuring the dignity and equality of the socially oppressed sections of the country.  Periyar started his fight for social justice when the very concept was unknown in Tamil Nadu.  Indian society had a social order based on caste system, which was sanctioned by the religion sculptures.  Hence the system was very much to the advantage of Brahmins who were custodians of religious lore. The only way by which equal opportunities can be created for all communities to enter educational institutions and government employment is caste wise reservation, which, the author explains through proper arguments.

Denigration of women in all societies in general and in India in particular, and the factors that lead to it, are gone through in detail in the second section of the work. The development of the concept of human rights, its denial caused by various factors, social and political, and a blueprint to assure them are delineated in the next section.

The author derives the exact definition of rationalism through analytical method, and goes through in detail how rationalism can be the proper antidote to various ills that afflict the society.  Similar treatment is given to the concept of secularism in the next section.

Justice Venugopal introduces Periyar as “a missionary, a born crusader against social inequalities and injustice and a known and confirmed heretic,” which captures both the social commitment and the impetuous nature of Periyar.  The origin, the work and the ultimate success of his Self Respect Movement, which has been waging a war against all kinds of inequality form the subject  matter of the second half of the work, which culminate in an assessment of Periyar’s leadership.

Much before the drafting of the Constitution of India and the inclusion of Directive Principle of State Policy there in, Periyar “thundered that caste based hierarchical system in  India was a social anachronism and a dinosaur of by – gone Vedic age  that deserved to perish,” and started working to accelerate the process.  Realizing that Brahmanism was the root cause for the perpetuation of inequality in society he worked ceaselessly to bring it to an end, through providing the necessary handicap to the suppressed classes.  Further he waged a separate war against untouchalibity which bemeaned the people of selected castes, and subjected them to exploitation.  Referring to the need for secularism, he points out with illustrations that religion, instead of being a cohesive force has now become a destructive force, and hence must be dispensed with.  Hence Periyar’s famous dictum: ‘Forget God, Think of humans’. Humanism, as a value is underscored by Periyar, since it affirms the dignity of the individual.  It must be born out of compassion and must promote understanding of fellow individual, their needs aspiration and problems.

‘Thoroughness’ has been the watchword of the author in producing this studied estimate of Periyar’s crusade which has spanned all the aspects of social life.  Apt and thought producing quotations from acknowledged authorities embellish the work.

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