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The Periyar controversy: In an era of twitter outrage & abusive behaviour its easy to see why Periyar might prove a target for click-baits and yellow journalism -- ignoring his message, life & legacy

#Periyar #Periyarstatue #EVRamaswamy #Rajnikanth

(Periyar at Vaikom)
For #Rajnikanth - #Periyar must be the vilest politican that ever existed because his protestors once garlanded chappals on an idol of Lord Rama and carried vulgar nude pictures of Hindu dieties during the Salem rally of 1971.
Now there are many things problematic with this. There is always an effort to link an entire movement with the actions of the fringe.
Note how white, right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren constantly highlights a few instances of black protestors misbehaving. Citing posters like "F*** the police" "Fry them like bacon," and damage to public property to undermine the entire #BlackLivesMovement .
Now black commentators like Trevor Noah have pushed back and asked her, "Why are you linking the actions of a few to the movement? Does the BlackLivesMatter movement itself stand for this?"
N Tomi Lahren insists that a few incidents are enough to negate & nullify all that #BlackLivesMovement stands for. Likewise in India, you have Rajnikanth insisting that the Salem Rally 1971 incident alone is enough to undermine the entire history & work of the Periyar movement.
Now, I can understand that garlanding a Hindu deity with chappals or carrying nude posters would be extremely offensive to practising Hindus. But let's not jump the gun here.
Is there any conclusive evidence that Periyar garlanded Lord Ram's statue with chappals? Or that he approved of his followers' nude posters?
There is the Hindu report, which clearly states that during the procession, where DK followers carried nude posters, Periyar was right at the back of it, sitting on a tractor.
Only the Tughlak (a right-wing publication), tries to make out that Periyar himself was responsible for the disrespect towards Hindu deities.
Another problem with sudden outrages and controversies is that our leaders have to be saints or demons. There is no room for grey areas. This can hardly lead to sensible or level-headed debate.
Now there are real problems with some of our greatest leaders. I will always be a Gandhian and love, admire and respect Gandhi's secularism and role in India's freedom struggle.
But in pursuit of Gandhian truth, I should also criticse Gandhi's highly inappropriate behaviour with young girls and his racist comments towards blacks in South Africa.
In Ghana, during a recent student protest, students defaced the statue of Gandhi citing his use of the racist slur "Kaffirs," while describing blacks.
Or black rights giant Martin Luther King's troubling attitude towards domestic violence. Or Nelson Mandela's early violent protests before he turned Gandhian and switched to non-violence and civil disobedience to protest apartheid.
Periyar is a giant of a human being - but also a human being end of the day. So could we have a balance and a sense of proportion while discussing him?
My sincere appeal to believing Hindus would be to look at the man's life in totality and then judge. Here was a man, who spent his entire life fighting for the lower castes. To end segregation in schools, workplaces and temples for Dalits.
He joined the Vaikom protest in 1924 & was arrested twice, because he wanted people from all walks of life not just upper castes to be able to worship at Sri Mahadeva Temple in Vaikom, Kerala. Would this man have deliberately insulted your belief systems & thrown mud at ur faith?
Till his death, Periyar was on the board of a couple of temples in his hometown Erode. A position he is said to have inherited from his father. Would not the temples removed Periyar from their boards if they felt he was anti-Hindus & engaging in disrespectful behaviour?
Periyar was a staunch atheist. And yet he knew how dear faith was to many of his followers. Till the time of his death he fought for lower caste entry into temples.
Early in his political career, he supported the 1923 rule passed by the Justice Party to create the Hindu Religious Endowment Board -- which sought to break the hold of upper castes in temples.
Periyar held radically progressive views for his time. He was for womens rights; wanted them to get educated, have jobs, appreciated Bharathiyar's poetry; was rooting for widow remarriage and abolishment of child marriage.
For years, he fought against his chief opponent and friend Rajaji -- C Rajagopalachari, who as Tamil Nadu CM wanted to bring in hideous laws like caste-basted education system (குலக்கல்வி திட்டம்)
Rajaji felt it would be best if children had a common syllabus for the first half of the day in school and for the second half it would be better if they learnt the caste-trade of their forefathers.
Periyar told Rajaji, the whole purpose of education would be to get a broader understanding of the world, gain skills and have a plethora of job opportunities. The purpose of education would not be to narrow down, discriminate and ensure the perpetuation of the caste system.
Now when it came to caste, Periyar had huge problems with Hinduism. He felt certain passages in the Manusmriti were abominable as they were patriarchal and castiest - they enslaved women and lower castes into a lifetime of subservience.
Now before people accuse of Periyar only hating Hinduism -- Periyar was also well-versed with the Bible and Koran. He has also noted that the patriarchal elements in the Bible calls for subjugation of women and endorsement of slavery.
Just ask yourself this question- whoever you are - how many of us would have had access to see the beauty of the Kapaleeshwarar temple, the Parthasarathy temple, the Airvateshwara temple, Thanjai periya kovil, Sri Ranganathar temple --
-- the marvels and wonders of the Chola, Pallava and Pandiya dynasties had it not been for Periyar? Do you know that there are still hundreds of temples that Dalits have no access to in North India?
Do you know Tamil Nadu has one of the highest literacy rates in India, lowest instances of hate crime like lynchings against minorities like Muslims and Christians? Who should we thank for the peace, rationality and welcoming attitude of the state if not for Periyar?
We welcome people from all walks of life, from all regions, from all religions. There r Telegus, Sourashtrians, Gujaratis, Marathas settled in Tamil Nadu for 100s of years with no regional chauvinistic movement telling them to leave- like we see in cities like Mumbai or Bangalore
We even welcomed Rajnikanth. Despite his bigotry and hate-filled opinions, TN continues to be his home -- because we have a culture of tolerance, inherited from our forefather Periyar.
(P.S. Minor matters. But I can't help feeling Rajnikanth is lying about his reading Tughlak edition of 1971. In 1971, he was working as a conductor in Bangalore. And he didn't start learning to read and write Tamil till he came to Madras Film Institute in 1973)
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