The most antiquated, anachronistic, discriminatory, and inhuman practice is still moving from strength to strength in this land of antiquity and ancient civilization. No one seems bothered or aware of such a pernicious practice. What startles the thinking community is it still holds our hands tied in such ignominy.
The agamas have prescribed many such humiliating rules all in the name of gods but the real tragedy is even the doors of justice are shut on the innumerable hapless citizens who are 95 per cent of the population. That , only the Brahmins under the guise of agamas should be archakas (priests) in the Hindu temples is the severest onslaught on any civilized society. When all the religious functional departments make use of all the products of science why have they not still started using scientific methods in their practices ?
The Hindu agamas prescribe that non-Brahmins are not allowed to perform any religious rites both inside and outside the temples lest the deities installed there be polluted or defiled. Even the gods are attributed to practice caste discrimination a forthright denial of the universality of god. God is thus portrayed with an anthropomorphic attribute. The gods directly reflect all the pettiness, ignorance ,limitation, vices and prejudices of their creators – the human beings.!
Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), an atheist movement has been advocating the most comprehensive and pragmatic solution for this nastiest unjust practice. Let us now have a short glimpse of all the continued struggles and steps undertaken by them .In the entire history of India DK is the first and perhaps the only one to take up this hard task of eradicating this evil through legal remedies. There is an oft repeated criticism against DK that being a proclaimed atheist organisation it cannot interfere in the matters of what happens inside the temples.
We solemnly proclaim at this juncture that none of us would ever aspire or try to become an archaka! We only fight for the rights of those who are exploited and humiliated in the name of gods. We are advocating the cause of the defenseless. Atheism is our principle but the demand that everyone should have the right to become archaka is our right . The gist of DK’s initiatives , the list of struggles and the responsive deeds of the political rulers of the State are as follows :
• In 1969 more than 2000 D.K. cadres got ready to force-enter the sacro-sanctum to mark the protest against the practice of caste-based discrimination there.
• Periyar made a public appeal and exhorted to the community that even the law-courts were supporting the discriminatory practice enshrined in the outdated and inhuman prescriptions of the agamas. Therefore the show of a mighty protest by the people was the only answer.
• Innumerable conferences meetings resolutions and protest-marches throughout Tamil Nadu were conducted.
• In 1970 Kalaignar Dr. M Karunanidhi the then Chief-Minister of Tamil Nadu made a promise in public that he would soon bring in legislation in the Legislative Assembly and appealed to Periyar to suspend all agitations and protests.
• A Bill was introduced in the Tamil Nadu Assembly to abolish the system of only the Brahmins acting as archakas and it was passed unanimously .This was said to reflect the recommendations made by the Elaiya Perumal Committee appointed by Mrs Indira Gandhi during her Prime Ministership
• Against the Bill that was passed in the Assembly, eleven Writ-petitions were filed in the Supreme Court by the Hindu religious heads. Many subsequent judgments only upheld the laws of the agamas striking down the appeals and the voices of Social Justice. Periyar and his followers had to resort to newer and alternative strategies .
It was resolved to boycott and prevent temple entry in the Kabaleeswarar temple in Chennai – Mylapore. Accordingly the DK volunteers gathered in front of the temple explaining to the devotees how the system was built on the principle that the non-Brahmins cannot either enter or become archakas as they are all the children of the sudras (children of prostitutes) On 8th & 9th December 1973 Periyar made his last resolution spelling out steps to fight this injustice. E.V.R. Maniammai who took over from Periyar continued the struggle. After her, Dr.K.Veeramani has taken up the task with a renewed vigour.
• In 1979 Late M.G.Ramachandran, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu appointed a Committee of 12 members headed by Justice Dr.L.Magarajan to study and make suitable recommendations to make persons of all communities become archakas. This Committee quite distinctly recommended that there could not be any objection for persons belonging to all communities becoming archakas after due training, citing the fact that the agamas were originally in Tamil only.
• In 1984, it was announced in the Tamil Nadu Assembly that in that year the Government would bring in the legislation to allow persons belonging to all communities have the right to become archakas by the Ministry of Hindu Religious and Charity Endowment.
• The Committee appointed by the Government recommended that the agama colleges should be started in five cities in the State and that a stipend of Rs.500 to be paid to the students. Mr.R.M.Veerappan, the then Minister HR & CE, announced in the Assembly in 1984 that an agama college would be started in the Palani temple.
• In 1991 as response to the request made by Dr.Veeramani, Dr. Jayalalitha , the then Chief Minister announced that the dreams of Periyar and Anna would be given a Statutory provision forthwith. This agama college would adhere to all the rules of reservation in the admission of the students.
• In the meanwhile there was the change of the Government. Dravidar Kazhagam continued its fight tirelessly through many agitations protests and meetings
• But it was in the D.M.K. regime the legislation was at long last was made in 2006.
The legal hurdles: In 2007, a case was filed in the Supreme Court of India by the Adhi Sivachariars' Association, Madurai to cancel the move by the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan and Justice Ravindran gave the verdict in favour of the Sivachariars .It said "no one other than the sivachariars born as brahmins is qualified to act as archakas. the gods erected there would be polluted if others touched the deities installed there. Consequent on this ruling the school of Archakas in Thiruvannamalai was damaged beyond repair.
Current Massive Agitation and Picketing : Since then continuous struggles and protests are being conducted by the Dravidar Kazhagam. Battles may appear ended but the war will continue until the goal is achieved. At present the DK along with the support of the DMK, the VCK and other organizations wedded to the cause is on a massive agitation path from August 1, 2013 through out Tamil Nadu. Already the DK cadres have furnished the list of cadres, prepared for courting arrest and imprisonment indefinitely.
At this juncture a humanistic appeal is being made to all the citizens of this nation of their primary responsibilities to remove this ignominy cast on all of them in order to show to the world ours is a civilized nation. We earnestly appeal to all concerned to wipe out this humiliation from the face of our Motherland.