SINGAPORE SHINES IN THE LIGHT OF PERIYAR – Dr. Veeramani’s Visit to Singapore

On 28th October 2014 Dr. K. Veeramani  the Chancellor of Periyar Maniammai University,  lectured on the topic, “The Impact of Periyar E.V.R’s Visit  to South East Asia”   in a seminar organised by    the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS)  of the Singapore University.

In  a fully packed audience of erudite scholars, eminent economists and the  faculty of the university ,he lectured on the  marked  impact of Periyar’s visit in  the South East Asian countries In their  social, economic, political and cultural fields.

Senior Research Fellow Dr. Ronojoy, who presided over the Seminar introduced Dr. Veeramani thus, “He is the Founder and the  Chancellor of the Periyar Maniammai University and is running  several other educational institutions  as their head and founder. 

He studied  at the Annamalai University, and obtained Master’s degree in Economics with a gold medal.  Dr. Alagappa University  Karaikudi , has conferred on him a Doctor’s degree. The speaker of today is the  President of the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by  Periyar. He is an Advocate.

He is the Editor of the Tamil Daily "Viduthalai" (Liberator), Tamil bimonthly "Unmai" (Truth) and the  English monthly "The Modern Rationalist."  He is a creative writer having written about 50 books both in English and Tamil. 

He has been the main force behind the 76th Amendment of the Indian Constitution and the inclusion of its IXth Schedule in it that granted Reservation to the scheduled castes, backward classes and the tribals giving immunity from judicial review.” With these words of introduction Dr. Veeramani was invited to address that scholarly gathering.

Dr. Veeramani started his address by enumerating  the important events in the life of Periyar. He started with the citation given by the UNESCO  to Periyar.

He elaborated on how Periyar renounced the 29  posts he had held  to dedicate himself to the service of the people , how he joined the Congress on the insistence of Rajagopalachary, then his resignation  from the Congress as that party was against  the eradication of untouchability  and caste discrimination, and  how he started the Tamil Daily ‘ Kudi Arasu’  and its spread to the South East Asian countries like Singapore Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, its circulation increasing to 4000 through Mr. K. Sarangapani, and how he founded  the   Self Respect  Movement  and the reasons for starting  that movement.

He explained in detail the travel of Periyar in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. He then gave the details of the educational institutions started by Periyar.

He gave an effective description of  how Periyar living  up to the age of 95 ,  dedicated the entire stretch of his life in  the service  to humanity.

Many opined that his lecture was like a lesson in a class room  on why and how Periyar  lived and served the cause of the  downtrodden  and the impact  made by his visit and travel in the South East Asian counties. 

With some 36 slides of the power point presentation he drove home the significance of the teachings of Periyar, the impact of his visit to those countries  and some memorable events during  the visit. He elaborately quoted from  the writings  and  the books of the great personalities of those countries.  The first part of his speech thus covered in explaining who actually Periyar was.

PERIYAR  IN SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES

The second part of his speech provided the details of   Periyar’s  travel in the South East Asian Countries. He elaborated on how the lives of the Tamils there were very backward  and what advice was offered by Periyar to rectify their status. He also explained the activities of the Tamil  Associations of those countries  at that time.

FIVE KINDS OF IMPACT

In the third part of his address ,  Dr. Veeramani  explained in detail  the impact of Periyar’s visit. . He spoke about the five field impact  Periyar’s  visit made in the  Social, Educational, Economic, Political and Cultural  scenario. This lectures must have been a treat to the history scholars and students who gathered there.

SOCIAL  IMPACT

Social changes were visible through the awareness of not observing caste and untouchability. Moving freely and openly, liberty of thinking and using reasoning power humanised the orthodox Tamils.

Inter–living, inter-caste marriages, self –respect widow marriages, women empowerment, social justice inspired gender justice etc. created  a silent revolution  and scientific temper. The Ipoh “All Malaya Tamil Conference”, condemned the cruel practice of caste and  advised unity among the Tamils , sinking caste differences  among them.

Periyar’s Self-Respect philosophy thus became a catalytic agent among the Tamils of Malaya. In Singapore  Periyar started many schools which offered education to the children of the estate workers.  The Tamils remain in the main stream of Myanmar and lived safely mainly because of the efforts of Periyar .

EDUCATIONAL IMPACT

Many schools were started in Malaya and Singapore.

ECONOMIC  IMPACT

Periyar strongly condemned the pomp and lavish spending on marriages by the Tamils in Malaya and  recommended  frugal and simple ways of living.  He appealed to the Tamils in Malaya and Singapore to desist from their plans to return to their native country but insisted that they should remain improving their lot and status. Such words of wisdom were never told to them by any Indian leader.  

POLITICAL  IMPACT

The Tamils in Singapore and Malaya  were made to realise  that their future in those countries could be assured only by becoming the citizens of the countries and  participating in the governance. During the second visit of Periyar , Malayan Dravidian Association and the disciples  of Periyar like G.Sarangapani  obtained citizenship to  many  Tamils and that is the reason that many of the Tamils today   participate in education .  

CULTURAL   IMPACT

Periyar’s visit wielded a strong influence on the Tamils  to contribute  to the literary creations. The  condition of the Indian labourers in Malaya and Singapore was suffering from ‘kangani’ system  that   allowed the ‘kanganis’  (middlemen between  the labourers and the European bosses )  to suppress and exploit them.

In addition to their illiteracy and ignorance they used to  burn their earnings  in drinking habits. Consequently their family and children suffered from poverty and illiteracy’.

Periyar met them and spoke to them advising them to desist from drinking and not to use their earnings and keeping their families in  miserable conditions.

He persuaded them to live a frugal life and addressed to their economic problems . He started a school  in 1934.  Children who were admitted in this school are today graduates and because educated. Some of them have risen to the status of Ministers . In countries where seclusion and untouchability  were widely prevalent , social cohesion and unity appeared.

He provided a  detailed list of several facts about  Periyar’s Progressive  Association of the Tamils, and the number of  consequent Progressive Marriages through the followers of Periyar, the reduction of the caste  discriminations among them,  the  appearance of  social awareness among them and about his Tamil alphabet reform approved and enacted by the governments of both the countries .

He expatiated at great length and very interestingly for more than an hour how the Tamils gained education and get improved their social status and economic progress with job opportunities and  business facilities.

Periyar had  propounded great theories on the necessity to change the entire  social setup  in a country of several thousand years of  social injustice ,slavery  ignorance and exploitation. 

His disciple  is now engaged in  promoting  the strategies to propagate  those ideals in the most modern media of communication by giving a pragmatic touch, besides lecturing in all parts of the world ;  the first half of this year in the WEST,  in Germany ; in the second half of the year  in  the EAST in  Singapore , a fruitful and relevant global visit.

Reported by  Prof. S.F.N.Chelliah

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