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 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 .
Many schools were started in Malaya and Singapore.
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.
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 .
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