A Rebuttal To S.Anand's Critque Of Periyar
By Dr. Iniyan Elango
23 October, 2011
S.Anand's article "Iconoclast or Lost Idol?" published in "countercurrents.org" at http://www.countercurrents.org/dalit-anand240904.htm is full of falsehood, and is a vicious defamatory attack on the rationalist thinker and anti-caste revolutionary Periyar. I have excerpted and analysed a few examples from the scores of fallacious statements in his article.
S. Anand's article is replete with false quotes from individuals who have lied about Periyar. To say that Periyar worked only for "intermediary" castes and not for Dalits is a lie. It is also preposterous to state that Periyar was more anti-Brahmin than anti-caste. These are all based on lies which are not substantiated by any direct statement or quote from Periyar. Periyar's writings and actions worked towards annihilation of castes and empowerment of all oppressed caste people including Dalits.
S.Anand makes the mistake of assessing Periyar through the actions of DMK and ADMK parties which have nothing to do with Periyar or his ideology. DMK was a break away group from the Dravidar Kazhagam party and DMK was disowned by Periyar. DMK diluted most of Periyar's principles. ADMK which was founded by the movie actor MGR has nothing to do with Periyar's ideology except for using Periyar's images some times in their campaigns. Hence it is a fallacy to use DMK and ADMK as a measuring scale to assess Periyar's work.
It is baseless to state that "Periyar’s "eccentricities" seem to have provoked people to turn more zealously to religion (as S.Anand quotes from Ravikumar). If that was true Hindutva parties would have taken hold in Tamil Nadu but even now BJP struggles to win a single seat in Tamil Nadu. The fact that BJP cannot politically succeed in Tamil Nadu with its Hindutva ideology (in order to preserve "twice born" hegemony and the caste system to divide and rule the Indian masses along caste lines at the expense of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities) is a victory of Periyar. And S.Anand does not elaborate on what he means by "eccentricities" of Periyar and simply uses such language to unabashedly malign Periyar.
Attributing the existence of untouchability and segregation of Dalits in villages and towns across Tamil Nadu to "empowerment of Shudras" or Periyar (as S.Anand alludes by quoting Chandanban Prasad) is as preposterous as attributing untouchability and segregation of Dalits in Maharashtra to Babasaheb Ambedkar or to empowerment of "Shudras" in Maharashtra. The fact remains that both the so called Shudras (backward castes) and Dalits (Panchamas) are divied and ruled by the graded caste supremacist hierarchy imposed by the "twice born" castes, and the segregation of Dalits from backward castes cannot be blamed on Periyar but on the "twice born" ruling classes of India. The segregation of Dalits and atrocities on Dalits can be ended if the "twice born" establishment ruling India uses the might of the state to enforce a desegregation drive all across India, to provide housing to Dalits inside the towns and villages by abolishing the nationwide segregated colonies of Dalits and by banning all caste descent based degrading and inhumane occupations. But the "twice born" castes will not do that because they want the backward castes and Dalits to live in a state of division and social segregation, so that the "twice borns" (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vysyas) can divide and rule the Indian masses.
The fact remains that Tamil Nadu after Periyar has lower number of Dalits who are forced into caste ordained degrading and inhumane work compared to Dalits in other parts of India who are imprisoned in degrading "caste occupations". Tamil Nadu has also totally eradicated the forcing of Dalit women into prostitution in the name of caste ("Devadasi") which is still prevalent in adjacent Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
S.Anand is also wrong to state that "speaker after speaker" of Dravidian parties "conveniently rewind to his (Periyar's) sayings". The two main Dravidian parties, namely DMK and ADMK do not speak about Periyar's ideology at all. An attack on the inadequacies of DMK and ADMK cannot be presented as an attack on Periyar.
To state that Periyar's message cannot be posited against Hindutva and to state that Periyar called for a majoritarianism which was akin to Hindutva's majoritarianism but only without Brahmins are all malicious lies (as quoted by S.Anand from Ravikumar). Periyar called on his followers to totally reject Hinduism and called on Dalits to embrace Islam to escape untouchability and related indgnities. Periyar fought Brahmanism and Brahmins who lead and use the Hindutva ideology to divide and control the non-Brahmin masses. Periyar is an ultimate anti-Hindutva icon and to brand him as otherwise is malicious falsehood.
The allying of Dravidian parties such as DMK and ADMK with Hindutva parties has nothing to do with Periyar. Will S.Anand misrepresent the past allying of Mayawati with BJP as an expression of Ambedkarite ideology?? One cannot judge Ambedkar through the actions of those who claim to be his followers but hobnob with Hindutva elements, and similarly Periyar cannot be judged by those who simply garland his statutes and pictures such as those belonging to DMK and ADMK.
To say Periyar was a failure is akin to stating Ambedkar was a failure. Both leaders propounded an ideology and a life time of activism to annihilate caste bigotry and "twice born" supremacy. The failure of the ensuing generations to carry on their work cannot be branded as a failure of Periyar or Ambedkar. The existence of superstitions, religiosity, inequality, inhumanity., etc., cannot be construed as a failure of Periyar as S.Anand states in his quote from Thirumavalavan. Periyar prescribed an ideological medicine for social evils and lived a life of activism, but if society has not taken that medicine and continues to be ill, it is not the failure of the doctor (Periyar) but the society which has stopped taking the medicine prescribed by Periyar.
To state that many in India know of Periyar only as a river and sanctuary by that name in Kerala is nothing but an unwarranted mockery of Periyar. Many in India don't know of even Ambedkar (if one goes by the knowledge of non-Dalits in India), but that does not take away the importance of Ambedkar or that of Periyar.
S. Anand should be deluded to think that J. Jayalalitha is a "flag-bearer" of Dravidian ideology!! Jayalalitha is a Brahmin caste supremacist and an erstwhile actress who usurped the leadership of the ADMK party after the death of its leader MGR. Jayalalitha is a avowed Brahmin steeped in religiosity and has never displayed any interest in Periyar's ideology. To call her as a "flag bearer" of Dravidian ideology is laughable and only shows S.Anand's bigoted intent to malign Periyar. Both MGR and Jayalalitha have nothing to do with Periyar's ideology, and as stated above, both the DMK and ADMK broke away from Periyar's Dravidar Kazhagam and heavily diluted Periyar's message. Hence it is fundamentally flawed to assess Periyar through the actions of DMK and ADMK or its leaders.
It is a willfully malicious and gross exaggeration to state that children, such as 13-year-old Bharanidharan alias ‘Salem Kutty Swami’, posing as gurus, command a better following than Dravidar Kazhagam, the original Dravidian platform founded by Periyar. Has S.Anand done any scientific poll or survey to count the supporters of Periyar or Dravidar Kazhagam to conclude that they are fewer in number than that of a "child swami"? Dravidar Kazhagam and Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam are social reformist organisations who still conduct successful rallies and campaigns all across Tamil Nadu and whose influence is not restricted to registered members of these organisations.
S.Anand fails to mention the countless agitations Periyar conducted for the rights of Dalits including the famous Vaikom struggle in Kerala in which Periyar fought for the rights of Dalits to walk on the street and enter the temple, a struggle which went unsupported even by Gandhi. (But Gandhi's lack of support for agitations that empowered Dalits is another topic which is beyond the scope of this rebuttal to S.Anand).
It is reductionist and false to bracket Periyar's free thinking rationalist thought on various subjects with the "Dravidian" label and lump it with the actions of DMK and ADMK parties who have nothing to do with Periyar's ideology. It is fallacious to restrict and label Periyar's ideology as "Dravidian". Periyar can be best described as a rationalist free thinker and a caste annihilating revolutionary who cannot be reduced to any restrictive label.
S.Anand also quotes Chandanban Prasad as saying that 42 per cent Dalits are independent cultivators in UP, in TN it is only 12.8 per cent", but one fails to understand how this can be attributed to Periyar. Moreover, one has to question the validity and relevance of such a statistic considering that Dalits are larger in population in the state of UP than the state of Tamil Nadu. But the fact remains that Dalits remain segregated in UP and are prone to more atrocities in UP than in Tamil Nadu.
S.Anand himself states that good renditions of Periyar's work are not available in English. Given this admission by Anand and his reported inability to read chaste literary Tamil, one can only conclude that S.Anand's malicious and defamatory report on Periyar is not based on Anand's reading of any of Periyar's original writings or statements.
S.Anand quotes Chandanban Prasad as saying "TN proves that the Shudras, when empowered, can be more socially violent than the Brahmins", which is a classic example of Brahman racist divide and rule tactic to use Dalits in order to justify keeping the lower castes (backward castes) disempowered and entrenched in the lower echelons of the graded caste supremacist hierarchy, which will in turn entrench Dalits as outcasts and untouchables, thereby protecting the "twice born" upper caste position in the graded caste supremacist social ladder, and securing the graded caste supremacist system for posterity. This is also a tactic to shift the blame for segregation and atrocities suffered by Dalits on the backward castes (lower castes), while hiding the social, political, judicial and theological role of the "twice born" bigoted ruling class of Hindus (upper castes) and the Hindu religion in sanctioning and sustaining untouchablility and atrocities suffered on account of the latter. Bigots like S.Anand never attack the Hindu religion and the "twice born" upper caste ruling class directly for the graded caste supremacist system that segregates and oppresses Dalits, but conveniently blame only the "backward castes" for the suffering of Dalits, to hide the role played by the "twice born" upper castes in oppressing and dividing the lower castes (backward castes) and Dalits. By keeping the rural poor of the backward castes and Dalits in segregation and violence, Brahmans and "twice born" Hindus aim to secure and sustain the graded caste supremacist system and the ultimate supremacist status of the "twice born" upper castes. Brahmans and allied "twice born" upper castes will never allow Dalits into the sanctum sanctorum of temples to worship or to work as temple priests because this will destroy the social and theological basis for untouchability and destroy the segregation between backward castes and Dalits, which will in turn allow backward castes and Dalits to mingle and destroy the graded caste supremacist system. Many other social, political and legal methods are used by Brahmans and allied "twice born" upper castes to keep the backward castes and Dalits divided and bickering, while conveniently blaming the backward castes for the suffering of Dalits which is actually perpetrated by the graded caste supremacist system unleashed and preserved by the Brahman and "twice born" theology, religious practice and social system. This is why Babasaheb Ambedkar burnt Hindu scriptures including the "Manu Smiruthi" and blamed the Brahmans for the plight of Dalits fully realizing that only the destruction of the fountainhead of the graded caste supremacist system (Brahmans) will destroy the graded caste supremacist system and the atrocities suffered by Dalits in that bigoted system.
S.Anand uses the term "Shudras" - a vulgar, profane, bigoted and abusive term meaning "descendants of Brahmans' prostitutes" with impunity. Both the backward castes and Dalits are indeed Shudras according to Hindu scriptures, with both the "backward castes" and Dalits being technically "untouchable" to Brahmans and "twice born" castes. Both the backward castes and Dalits are banned from entry into the sanctum sanctorum of Hindu temples.
S.Anand lists a series of superstitious and ritual practices of backward castes and Dalits (such as fire walking, etc.,) including religious movements headed by a backward caste person (Bangaru Adigalar), and seems to ludicrously want the reader to believe that the existence of these superstitions and rituals has something to do with the rationalist - atheist Periyar. He conveniently leaves out Hindu temple worship, rituals and yagnas performed by Brahmans from this list of superstitions. S.Anand fails to recognize that all the superstitions listed by him existed during Periyar's time and continues to exist after his time because Periyar did not have a magic wand to cure society of its superstitions. Periyar expressed his rationalist thought and lived a life of activism against many social ills, and the continuance of such ills does not point to the irrelevance of Periyar, but the need for society to take more of the medicine prescribed by Periyar to cure these social ills.
S. Anand's article is nothing but an ignorant, inept but malicious attempt to defame and misrepresent Periyar to those who may not have known Periyar's original writings, statements and actions.
Dr. Iniyan Elango, MBBS., LLM (Human Rights Law)., Chennai, India.
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