Legacy of Social Justice, Current Trend and Challenges

Dr.K.Veeramani,MA.,BL.,D.Lit.,

Dear Stalwarts of Social Justice Movement and Organisers of  this Social Justice Conference, other comrades and my dear  brothers and sisters!

Good evening to all of you!

At the outset, we are mission bound to convey our beloved greetings to all of you on behalf of Periyar Movement, as humble disciple of the great social revolutionary Thanthai Periyar E.V.Ramasamy.

By meeting all of you, assembled here in large numbers and by witnessing the meticulous painstaking responsibilities shouldered by the organizers of this Social Justice Conference at Rapalle, we are hopeful and very much positive to perceive that the further journey of social justice can  proceed successfully.

Social Justice

Man is called social animal. Man dwells in congregation. Human Societies exist  in all parts of the world. Social inequalities prevail in such societies. The cause of such social inequalities are of varied nature, may be economic, political and like that. But the social inequalities that prevail in this land is peculiar and unique. The social inequalities exist based on the birth of the people. The inequalities exist in other countries are created by men. They can be evened out in due course with proper initiatives. Whereas the social inequalities of this  land, are also being created by men, but cunningly advocated as if they are the acts of god and religion.

The inequalities in other countries are designed one, whereas the inequalities in India is destined. So the task before any revolutionary is to break the destiny and bring out social equalities everywhere . Justice has to be rendered to those who are inflicted with such so called divine social inequalities. This is the concept of Social Justice.

Social Justice Mass Movement

For the welfare of mankind and to bring in genuine social harmony only few people think constructively. Such thinking slowly develops as thought process. Later, it culminates as efforts of individuals and as the manifestation of their serious thoughts. As things get developed, organized functioning is required for further progress. Formation of organization could bring required results to little extent further. Such ideal organizational functioning could be possible with the talented and capable leadership . But the leadership must be available on sustained basis one after another.

Many organizations however much, its nurturing ideals are noble become extinct after the demise of the leader who led it. Only few leaders are capable of creating ideal leadership even after their demise. Such creation could be possible only with the disciplined, dignified and duty bound culture inculcated in the cadres of the organization. At that stage, the ideals of the organization acquires the status as the ideals of movement and it is very well meaningful in terming it as ‘Social Justice Movement’.

 

Periyar E.V.R. and Dr. B.R .Ambedkar – Two sides of the same coin

Many movements are limited in their role of interpretation of the  ideals it nurtures and safeguards. Beyond that they do not focus themselves. But certain movements are active both in the prescription of correct interpretation of their ideals and propagating such reformative ideals on mass scale with people participation to transform the society. Social Justice Movement is one such mass movement. It was nurtured by the great social revolutionaries Mahatma Jotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Sahu Maharaj in Maharashtra and Sri Narayana Guru in Kerala. But the role played by Periyar E.V.Ramasamy and Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, both during the pre and post periods  of India’s political independence are significant.

To gain such significance for the ideals of the Social Justice, the struggle and the sacrifice and the co-ordinated functioning rendered by the twin social revolutionaries Thanthai Periyar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar are immeasurable. Periyar and Ambedkar are the two sides of the same coin. The value of  the  coin will not depreciate at any count but only will ascend and get appreciated.

          

Today to sustain such significance and to take it to  further arena, we, the cadres of Social Justice Movement have to strive hard through timely, diplomatic planning exercises and executing them by mobilising the support of oppressed and suppressed sections of our society. In this way, the organizers of this Social Justice Conference are moving in the right path way , in mobilising large gathering to attend this conference thereby activating the ignorant masses as the igniting masses for the intensified social revolution. We congratulate and compliment the organizers for the timely convening of this Social Justice Conference!

Centenary Year of Dravidian Movement

 The current year is being celebrated as Centenary of Dravidian Movement (1912-2012) in Tamil Nadu. For the current political convenience it is significantly celebrated in Tamil Nadu. But the Dravidian Movement is not limited to present Tamil Nadu alone. The Founders of the Dravidian Movement were Sir Pitty Theagarayar, Dr.C.Natesan, Dr.T.M.Nair, well respected leaders of the erstwhile Madras Province, the then political territory in British India ,covering Tamil Nadu, major parts of the  present Andhra Pradesh, Kerala , Karnataka and Odisha. The genesis of Dravidian Movement is based on Social Justice.

In the early 1910s, during the British rule, the non-Brahmins who were serving in  Madras Provincial Government were suppressed by the dominant Brahminical bureaucracy. The discontent, suppression and discriminated treatments meted out to the non-brahmin government servants made themselves to assemble under the banner, ‘Dravidian League’, which was renamed as ‘ Dravidian Asssociation’ under the patronage of Dr.C. Natesan. ‘Dravidian Hostel’ was established by Dr.C.Natesan for the boarding and lodging of non-brahmin students, coming to Chennai for higher studies, and who could not get accommodation elsewhere.

From this sort of initiative at the beginning for due treatment to the serving non-brahmins in the government and to facilitate the higher education  for non – Brahmin students , the process got evolved to political platform in 1916 with the formation of South Indian Liberal Federation (SILF).

Proclamation of Non – Brahmin Manifesto

The trio-stalwarts, Sir Pitty Theagarayar, Dr.C.Natesan and Dr.T.M.Nair were instrumental for the formation of SILF and  the Non-brahmin manifesto was declared. The Magna Carta of the oppressed people, the Non–brahmin Manifesto demanded due representation in education and employment opportunities for non-brahmins. The Non-brahmin Manifesto proclaimed by SILF is the fundamental document for the Social Justice Movement in this part of the country. Later SILF was identified as Justice Party after the name of its official magazine, JUSTICE. The Justice Party came to political power in Madras Province in 1920.

             

Justice Party while it was in political power brought many social reform measures like abolition of Deva Dasi system, provision of voting rights to womenfolk etc. Rama Raya Ninkar, popularly known as Panagal Raja, who became second Chief Minister of Justice Party regime enacted legislation for the formation of Hindu Religious and Charity Endowment Board to streamline and administer Hindu temples. During the Justice Party regime only, to encourage and enrol the downtrodden children in schools, noon meal scheme was introduced in Madras Corporation which was extended later to the whole  of the State by lamented leader K.Kamaraj and M.G.Ramachandran and refined by Kalaignar K. Karunanidhi during their Chief Ministerships.

The great impact of Justice Party, even though it was not in full ruling power later, the vibrancy it created on social justice front enabled the issuance of the First Government Order, popularly called as Communal G.O. in 1929. C. Muthiah, Minister in the independent party  government was instrumental for this land mark achievement. The Communal G.O. enabled reservation in government jobs for non-brahmins.

Periyar left the Congress Party in 1925, for the sole cause of Social Justice.

Periyar E.V.Ramasamy was active and popular in the Congress Party in late 1910s. Basically his thinking and mission was to attain social freedom prior to political freedom. He was agitating within the Congress Party on social reform front and attempted vehemently and continuously for the approval of  communal representation in employment opportunities as the agenda of the Congress Party.

But the brahminical hagemony in the Congress Party did not permit even to discuss  the issue officially. Hence Periyar left the Congress Party in 1925, for the sole cause of Social Justice. He founded Self-Respect Movement and fought against brahminical hegemony both in political and social sides. He created a new awakening in the minds of the oppressed masses.

When the Justice Party lost ruling power of the Province , in order to protect its noble ideals, Periyar was requested to assume the leadership of Justice Party in 1939. To make the Justice Party  as Peoples Movement with the participation of the people in the lower rung of the society, Periyar changed its name as Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944. Periyar gave the positive identity as ‘Dravidians’ to the culturally oppressed and suppressed masses from the hyphenated negative identity of non-brahmins.

Dravidar Kazhagam became a mass movement which revolutionised the entire social and political fabric of the State, which created significant impact at national level too. Periyar Movement functioned as a whirlwind to debase the brahminical hegemony in all walks of life. Periyar’s focus was to liberate the indigenous downtrodden masses from the social slavery.

This could be possible by getting due share in educational and employment opportunities. He was the pivotal force to mobilise the public opinion and their support to accomplish the social justice agenda, whoever becomes the political ruler. He was quoted as stooge of British rulers by the anti activists of Social Justice. To that much extent he was committed to social liberation more than political freedom.

First Constitutional Amendment is for Social Justice

After the country became politically independent , Indian Constitutional Law came into force from November 1949. Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitutional Law. Dr. Ambedkar himself stated that the exploitative forces utilised him for the enactment of Indian Constitutional Law. If it warrants , he would be the first person to burn the Constitutional Law. Such utterance  about Indian Constitution from Dr.Ambedkar, who headed the Drafting Committee  still remains as evidence to point out that Indian Constitutional Law is not fool proof. It requires lot of modifications and amendments. Accordingly, the first issue came to forefront after the acceptance and adoption of the Constitution .

In 1951, a litigation arose from a brahmin lady for the denial of admission to her in medical college for studies due to the communal reservation system by quoting that it was against the principle of equality as enunciated in Indian Constitutional Law. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the stand of the petitioner and made the reservation system so far in practice as null and void. Periyar started agitation immediately to enforce the reservation system which was in vogue even from the  period of British rule .

Since the agitation got intensified with the participation of many common people, the Central Government came forward to amend the Constitutional provision to safe guard the reservation system adopted for educational opportunities. At that time Dr. B.R.Ambedkar was the Central Law Minister. While bringing the motion for the FIRST AMENDMENT to Indian Constitution, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke thus:

“ There are certain happenings in Madras Province which made us to introduce the Constitution Amendment Bill.”

The happenings are nothing but the agitations directed and led by Periyar. Ultimately the FIRST Amendment was passed by inserting the Article 15(4), enabling the continuance of reservation in educational opportunities for the depressed classes. For the First Constitutional Amendment Periyar was reason as agitator and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was instrumental as Law Minister. The cause of the amendment of Indian Constitutional Law was Social Justice.

With this , reservation in education and employment opportunities were made available to Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes in the purview of Central Government. Besides the  SC/ST members,  reservation for backward classes are made available at varied percentages in proportion to their population under the purview of State Governments. But reservation to backward classes were not available either in education or in employment opportunities in the purview of Central Government.

Mandal Commission Recommendations

To enable  the provision of reservation for other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Central Government, First Backward Class Commission was  constituted with Kaka Kalelkar as its Chairman in 1953. Even though the Commission unanimously recommended for the reservation of OBCs, the Chairman submitted the report with dissent note. The recommendations made for OBCs reservation in  the purview of Central Government did not see the light at all. During the Janata Party regime at the Centre in 1977, the Second Backward Class Commission was constituted with B.P.Mandal  as its Chairman.

The Commission toured different parts of the country and they visited Chennai- Periyar Thidal, the Head Quarters of Periyar Movement. While addressing the meeting wherein we were also present, the Chairman of the Commission told,

“ Our job will be over after the submission of the report to the  Government. It is up to the people like you ( Periyar Movement) to make the Government to implement the recommendations of our report.”

True to the statement made by B.P.Mandal at Chennai, the Commission submitted its report in 1980. To place the  Mandal Commission Report at the floor of the Parliament it required two years for the Government. Even after placing the report and with due unanimous acceptance of all political parties for favour of its implementation, it did not come into force. No Government Order was issued to implement the recommendations of  the Mandal Commission.

  Periyar Movement convened 42 conferences with passing of resolutions  and 16 agitations and demonstrations were conducted to pressurise the Government to implement Mandal Commission recommendations. When V.P.Singh became the Prime Minister, the Mandal Commission recommendations did see the day light in  1990.  One of the recommendations advocates 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes  in the employment opportunities under the purview of Central Government. While announcing the OBC reservation  at the floor of the Parliament, Prime Minister V.P.Singh proclaimed thus:

“The dreams of Perirar E.V.Ramasamy, Baba Saheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar  and Ram Manohar Lohia  become realities with the implementations Mandal Commission recommendations.”

Because of the committed role played by V.P.Singh as Prime Minister in implementing reservation for OBCs , he lost the ruling throne. The upper caste dominated political parties withdrew their support, they offered to V.P.Singh Government. The ruling power was lost but the OBC  masses were empowered with reservation provisions in Central Government jobs. That is why V.P.Singh is glorified as ‘Saviour of Social Justice’.

Later, during the UPA I regime, Mandal Commission recommendation of providing 27% reservation for OBCs in educational institutions under the purview of Central Government was implemented. While implementing it , the upper caste minds in political circle as well as in bureaucracy  put hurdles by saying that all of a sudden 27% reservation can not be implemented in one go; it  has to be in phased manner as one third of 27% in first year , two third during second year and full 27% from the third year onwards.

Parental Role of Periyar Movement

For any organisation ,fighting for the cause of  Social Justice, Periyar Movement remains  parental  by extending ideological support as well as organisational  support. The parental stature of Periyar Movement for the cause of Social Justice is reflected in the  prevailing 69% reservation for SC/ST and OBCs both in education and employment opportunities under the purview of Tamil Nadu State Government. Despite the total ceiling of reservation is advocated as 50%, it is 69% in Tamil Nadu. In order to protect the 69% reservation in Tamil Nadu, an exclusive enactment was legislated under Article 31(c) and the same was inserted in the XI Schedule of the Indian Constitution (76th Amendment, 1994). Because of such insertion, the Act gets immunity from judicial review.

Tamil Nadu is the FIRST State to legislate an Exclusive Act for ensuring and protecting reservation for SC/ST and BC people which is immune to judicial review. All this sort of pioneering task on Social Justice is possible because of the initiative and support of Periyar Movement and the committed role played by the Dravidian Political parties viz. DMK and ADMK under the leadership of Kalaignar.M.Karunanithi, M.G.Ramachandran and J.Jayalalitha .

There are series of landmark progress in the path of Social Justice which have been initiated and facilitated by the Dravidian Movement. Social Justice is the prime agenda even in its Centenary Year with its significant achievement in the State and the leading support given for the initiative taken by the Centre irrespective of the political parties which assumes the ruling power.

 Future Challenges to ensure Social Justice

The past journey of Social Justice was not rosy. It was thorny ,full of hurdles and let downs. Even then, we have travelled in the path with many achievements. Similarly, the future journey of Social Justice is not easy. In fact, it is a challenging task with the changed political and economic environments. So far, Social Justice is attempted and achieved to significant levels only in government educational institutions and services both at the centre and the state. From 1991 onwards, with the introduction of new economic policy, focus is shifted on privatization of educational institutions and services. Besides, liberalization and globalization policies have facilitated the entry of foreign entities to run educational institutions and to create employment opportunities.

The education and employment opportunities are coming down in State sectors. More avenues are available and likely to develop in private sector and also with the sector of foreign collaboration. What is the position of Social Justice in such private and foreign collaborated Institutions? Social Justice Movement has to approach the issue with new focus to ensure reservation for the oppressed section in these institutions. Foreign collaborated concerns especially from US are already familiar with these reservation provisions. It is envisaged as affirmative action in the USA.

Achievements in this path have to be aggravated with due  enlightenment of the oppressed people and by seeking  the support of the people who are benefited out of the Social Justice. Solidarity in supporting the unified initiative of the Social Justice Movement by the organizations irrespective of the political affiliations is the need of the hour. Convening of the Social Justice Conference like this will be of immense force in integrating the suppressed masses. The so far, un attempted, unavailable area of reservation system in state sector have to be subjected to Social Justice.

More such conferences and meetings of the functionaries of Social Justice Movement would definitely capture the attention of the ruling power. In democracy, numerical majority rule the nation. The Oppressed people are numerically stronger if they are supportive in entirety for the cause of Social Justice  and then success will be ours.

Let us strive hard for the success to come earlier!

Let us consolidate ourselves further in our Mission of Social Justice!

Let us lift the torch – Legacy of Social Justice atop!

 

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