A 144–12 months–old mansion is nestled among the vintage and the brand new on a quiet road in Erode in western Tamil Nadu. it’s far flanked via a dilapidated building on its left, and a current house on its proper. Tamil leader Periyar’s ancestral domestic, now a museum maintained via the state government, mirrors thenation of his ideology – caught among the antique and new generations, and suffering to continue to exist in its authentic shape.
images of Periyar’s own family in the home of SRS Ramkan, EVKS Elangovan’s cousin in Erode. (L to R: SR Samy, a nephew of Periyar; Periyar; Kannammal, Periyar’s sister; Ramasamy Naicker aka Maappillai Naicker, Kannammal’s husband; SR Santhanam, another nephew of Periyar). credit: Sandhya Ravishankar
Born in 1879 right into a Kannada-speaking own family of the Naicker caste, Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy Naicker or Periyar (Tamil for elder one or reputable one) lived on this house via his lifetime. His mother and father were rich landlords who owned loads of acres of fertile agricultural land in Erode.
A pilgrimage to the holy metropolis of Kashi inside the early 1900s became him towards Brahmin hegemony for existence. In Kashi, he faced discrimination in opposition to non-Brahmins for the primarytime ever while he turned into thrown out of a restaurant and refused food. pressured by using a nicely-entrenched caste gadget to devour leftovers out of a dustbin, this rich, educated, and now embittered, landlord vowed to combat towards the caste gadget.
He launched the Self-admire motion inside the Nineteen Twenties. His combat might upend a nationand serve as the launchpad for powerful regional political parties. it might introduce the standards of eradication of caste, rationalism and atheism to Tamil Nadu and trade the nation’s politics all the time.
“Periyar may want to speak for two to a few hours without a break,” said D Shanmugam, the setting upsecretary of Erode’s Dravidar Kazhagam, an apolitical business enterprise based by means of Periyar to propagate the Self-respect ideology. “I heard him talk as a young boy. He used to be mesmerising. Hemight use crass language pretty regularly however it in no way sounded offensive, at least to me.”
Periyar and his first spouse Nagammai had a girl baby who died at five months of age. After Nagammai’sdying, Periyar remarried. He and his second wife had been childless. Periyar, but, had an older brother andtwo sisters. His brother Krishnasamy fathered sons, one in every of whom became former Member of Parliament EVK Sampath. To Sampath and his spouse Sulochana turned into born EVKS Elangovan.
uncommon photograph of Periyar’s family. Sitting L to R: EVK Sampath (father of EVKS Elangovan); Chellammal (sister of Sampath); EVK Selvaraj (brother of Sampath). credit: Sandhya Ravishankar
A closet Periyarist?
“Elangovan is individually a follower of Periyar,” stated SRS Kalyanasundaram, his cousin who lives in Erode. “while his mother died, Elangovan did not conduct any formalities or rituals. He clearly got theframe cremated with out a fuss.”
Elangovan’s wedding ceremony too noticed the have an effect on of his granduncle. “It turned into 1975 and [the] Emergency turned into in force,” acknowledged Kalyanasundaram. “At Periyar Thidal in Chennai,300 human beings got here together for the Self-appreciate wedding ceremony. They have been served tea and biscuits and that was it.”
notwithstanding his austere methods, but, “no one knows Elangovan is a Periyarist,” his cousin said. it truly is because Elangovan grew to become to the Congress birthday party while he joined politics. he’spresently the president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.
His father, Sampath, was once touted to be Periyar’s political heir. In 1949, he left the apolitical Dravidar Kazhagam to shape the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, at the side of CN Annadurai and others.
Periyar – who became once a part of the Brahimin-ruled Congress celebration but give up because ofdiscrimination in 1925 – had waged a motion in opposition to what he called the imposition of Brahminical Hindi at the Tamils of the then Madras Presidency by means of Congress leader Minister C Rajagopalachari. This changed into inside the overdue 1930s. across the kingdom, an anti-Congress wave started out, the begin of the anti-Hindi movement. a number of Congressmen from Tamil Nadu additionally mutinied and some left the party to sign up for Periyar’s Dravidar Kazhagam.
From Dravidar Kazhagam was born the political wing of the movement, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which EVKS Sampath too joined. eventually, Sampath went over to the Congress party, anathema to his uncle Periyar. EVKS Elangovan observed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Congress and becoming a staunch Nehru family loyalist.
Straying from own family lineage
Elangovan’s critics feel he has had it smooth. Born into a rich family, the silver spoon he changed intoborn with prolonged to his political career. NV Kumaragurubaran, Erode district secretary of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, an offshoot of the authentic Dravidar Kazhagam, criticised Elangovan bitterly for straying some distance from Periyar’s ideology.
“throughout his stint as Union Textiles Minister between 2004 and 2009, we had positioned up a plaque of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leader Prabhakaran underneath Periyar’s statue in Erode,” recalled Kumaragurubaran. A center uniting topic of the Dravidian motion changed into language – Tamil pattru or love for Tamil changed into a slogan that prolonged to the Tamil-speakme Sri Lankans within the northernparts of the island country, considered an extension of the Tamil motherland. The LTTE, which wasfashioned to shield the rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils, changed into visible as a modern force and supported by means of the Dravidian ideologues.
Elangovan, however, did no longer guide the sentiment. “Elango were given the plaque removed,” saidKumaragurubaran. “that is just one example of how he put [the Congress] celebration over his own familylineage.”
Elangovan has additionally been severely criticised for making derogatory remarks about Tamil Nadu chiefMinister J Jayalalithaa, in addition to approximately Tamilisai Soundarrajan, the Tamil Nadu state president of the Bharatiya Janata party. Many within the Congress birthday party agree that Elangovan might doproperly to temper the vitriol in his speeches.
“Periyar never uttered a derogatory phrase against women, now not even Brahmin women,” saidKumaragurubaran. “One cannot communicate about ladies in this manner. He isn’t always a nagariga pecchalar (decent speaker).”
From ideology to electoral politics
Elangovan’s granduncle might also have spoken of eradication of caste in its entirety but the pressures of electoral politics have intended that this legacy is left at the back of in the race for votes.
Nineteen consistent with cent of Erode district’s 11.3 lakh populace incorporates Scheduled Castes. The dominant community inside the whole Western belt of Tamil Nadu, which include Erode, Coimbatore, Tirupur and Pollachi, is the Gounder community –that turned into classified as a forward caste at some point of Independence, however reclassified in 1975 as a backward class. Smaller castes like Naickers and Mudaliars form the rest of the population.
slightly 20 km from Erode lies the temple town of Tiruchengode. In June 2015, the homicide of a youngerDalit engineering student V Gokulraj shook the nation. He changed into allegedly killed for speaking with a classmate, a woman from the dominant “top caste” Gounder network. Yuvaraj, his alleged assassin, a small-time thug from the Gounder network in nearby Sankagiri metropolis, taunted the Tamil Nadu police for months before sooner or later surrendering in October 2015. Gokulraj’s murder is an example of the caste divides and violence jogging deep in the western belt of the country, across Periyar pirandha mann (the land in which Periyar became born).
Periyarists like P Kalimuthu, a professor on the advanced studies Centre for Periyar concept at Thanjavur’s Periyar Maniammai college, admit that caste rifts have deepened and widened, in particular inside thecountry’s western location. “Jaathi oori pocchu (Caste has seeped into society),” he said. “After the Eightiesthere began a trend of naming educational establishments and companies after caste names. before thatalthough, it become because of Periyar that caste names ceased to be surnames, specifically in ruralregions.”
events in the electoral race take benefit of such divides with a purpose to woo the majority network in the location to win votes. The Congress celebration isn’t any exception to such politicking. inside the 2011assembly elections, the DMK-Congress combine fielded a bunch of Gounder applicants within the region. The Erode East constituency turned into fought through Tilak of the DMK, whilst Erode West seat turned into fought by way of M Yuvaraj of the Congress, each Gounders. In Gobichettipalayam, the victor becameKA Sengottaiyan, a distinguished Gounder leader of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
“Neither EVKS Elangovan nor his father observed Periyar in any manner,” said Kumaragurubaran of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam in Erode. “it is a curse that is being accompanied through all parties,not simply the Congress. Elangovan is at the forefront of doing such disservice to Tamils. Now because ofhis errors, people are criticising Periyar.”
Elangovan faces a tough assignment ahead because the kingdom enters into what is expected to be a neck-and-neck contest among its two main Dravidian events. In November 2014, the Congress suffered a first-rate setback with the go out of former Union Minister GK Vasan, who having reportedly fallen out of favour with the Gandhis, decided to strike out on his personal and re-launch his father GK Moopanar’s Tamil Maanila Congress. half of of the celebration cadre went with him.
Sensing Vasan’s go out, the Congress speedy positioned Elangovan in fee in November 2014, to stem the tide of turncoats leaving the birthday party. The management felt that Elangovan will be the most propercandidate for the publish of nation birthday celebration president who may want to bring collectively the warring factions of P Chidambaram, Vasan and KV Thangabalu, another local leader.
considering then, Elangovan has been operating to bring in clean young blood to update individuals who went with Vasan. however the cadre energy of the birthday party has been compromised. Thecelebration, which had a mean vote percentage of round nine% in most assembly elections within thekingdom, noticed its fortunes dwindle to 4.three% in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which it contested on my own. within the 2011 meeting polls, the Congress received just five seats in alliance with the DMK, a sharpdrop from 34 seats in 2006. The 2014 Lok Sabha polls had been a whole washout, with the Congress returning empty-exceeded, a far cry from the 8 seats it received in 2009.
not a grassroots chief
returned in Erode, 64–12 months–old vegetable vendor C Sivasubramanian, who has witnessed Elangovan’s campaigns within the beyond, explains what he thinks approximately the politician. “Periya idathhu pillai,” he said, meaning Elangovan is someone born into a rich and critical circle of relatives. “He speaksproperly, it’s miles exciting to listen to him. however that is all there is to it. He isn’t always one amongus.”
while questioned about how the leader managed to win a Parliament seat from nearby Gobichettipalayam in 2004, Sivasubramanian argued that it was due to a seasoned-Congress mood inside the country on the time. “His father became an important man in Delhi,” he said. “maybe humans concept he could do a very good activity like his father. Whoever thought that then [in 2004] might probable no longer think so now.”
Elangovan’s loyalty to the Gandhis may additionally have given him an vital submit however he’ll nowhave to prove his mettle at the hustings. in the meantime, a desperate Congress, led through a frontrunner who has by no means had to plot a country election method, has joined palms with the DMKagain. This time, it’s miles probably to lean more on the electricity of its partner.