Status of Women in the Society:
Women form half of the human population. They are the most exploited beings by the men-folk without providing adequate welfare, security and recognition to commensurate with their contributions for the well being of the mankind both individually and collectively. They have been enslaved socially and kept as weaker section. To keep them under the control and dominance of men, the mindset of women has been tuned and they have been groomed by nurturing with the customs, rituals as if they have been ordained as such by god and religion. The enslavement of women is being made to be enjoyed by women themselves with divinity and glorification.
Caste is the obstacle for the progress of people in the indigenous society. Caste discrimination continues to remain as an impediment for the development and growth of the people. The caste system is said to be the sanction of the omnipotent god with the social hierarchy among humans based on their birth. This discriminating social order is meant only for the men’s population. The animals are not covered in the social order and in the same way women also.
The degraded position of women in the society has been created as per religious scriptures which overrule any other texts. Women are being born from the pavayoni (sinful vagina) as per the verses of Bhagavad Gita (Fosse, Lars Martin, The Bhagavat Gita, 9:32). This awkward projection of women in the scripture is being glorified and they have been put under constant and continuous ignorance and enslavement. To sustain such enslavement certain symbolic identities have been designed cunningly with sentimental coating for its adherence – to be specific, for its glorified wearing. One such identity is wearing of Thali – ‘Mangala Sutra’. It is not wearing suo moto but by the man who marries that woman. It is a nuptial knot and it has been ritualized as the accomplishment of marriage of a man and a woman.
Sanctity of Thali !
Thali – ‘Mangal Sutra’ is signified as divine, but it is nothing but a symbol of slavery of women. Whatever humiliation a married woman undergoes, from her life partner, she can renounce any other belongings and not ‘Thali’. As long as thali remains around the neck of a woman, she is considered as the property of her husband. If the husband dies his wife has to remove ‘thali’ to undergo the ordeals of widowhood – another worst side of women slavery.
Due to the worst living style of widows, the sentiments towards thali are strengthened to consider it as holy, divine to keep their spouses alive until it is being worn by the respective women. Thali wearing is made to be believed socially as thali packiam (Gift of Thali) given by men. Even temporary removal of thali or absence of thali around her neck is made to be considered as a bad omen as if it is linked as some sort of danger to the life longevity of their male spouses. To that much extent, the minds of married women have been brainwashed. The sentiments attached to tying and wearing of thali by women are more and hence its removal also remains so sentimental.
Revolutionary DK with Pragmatism:
Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), the pivotal organization of the social revolutionary movement founded by Periyar. E.V.Ramasamy (1879 – 1973) is pioneer in the cause of fighting against women enslavement, leading to women liberation and women empowerment. The ideological base of DK is not superficial. But it is on its strong origination. What is the core strength of women slavery? Where does it originate? What are all the identities that subscribe and strengthen the women slavery? All these fight against the target have been well conceived by DK from the period of Periyar and culminated as action programs. The action programmes are being executed by its black shirt cadres in the form of making propaganda, launching agitation, participating in picketing to capture the attention of the public and in case of necessity they are prepared to get arrested and undergo imprisonment to focus the public on the contradiction between the existing laws and aiming social revolution. On more dimension in the uniqueness of DK is – to the extent it is revolutionary in its ideological base, it is pragmatic strategically for the practical adherence and implementation by the people..
It is not an organization that brings revolution through armed struggle and not by any violent mode. DK does systematic propaganda periodically to enlighten the masses on rationalist ideals in a pragmatic manner. Periyar began to conduct self – respect marriages as early as in 1928 to bury the meaningless customs, practices and rituals for the cause of women liberation
Self – respect marriages are devoid of religious priest engagement and hence devoid of rituals automatically. In respect of the issue of tying thali, Periyar was pragmatic in approach and did not emphasise tying thali by the bridegroom around the neck of bride as compulsory. This pragmatism is not due to the necessity of thali but to the severe sentiments attached to thali in the society. Enlightening the minds of the people will not come all of a sudden: it is through periodic propaganda against the slavery customs. If the couple or their parents and families are particular about thali tying as the needed one, let them do it or else they need not tie thali, Periyar advocated.
Once the couple realizes the insignificance of thali, let them remove the tied thali, they had performed on the occasion of their marriage. This pragmatic mode also, got reflected in the enactment of an exclusive legislation for the validity of self – respect marriage. When the draft of the bill was sent by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and ardent disciple of Periyar, late Anna, for its scrutiny by Periyar before passing it at the floor of State Legislatures, Periyar made correction in the English draft text as ‘or tying of thali’ instead of ‘and tying of thali’ which enabled the self – respect married couple to consider the tying of thali as optional and not compulsory. The corrected bill was passed in Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council and passed as Self – respect and Reformist ( Suyamariyathai and Seerthirutha) Marriages Act which was inserted as Section 7A of Hindu Marriages Act 1955. As per the Hindu Marriages Act, tying of Thali is not compulsory.
Thali – removal Event:
The organizational agenda of DK is widespread, propagating rationalist ideals on many social planks. Depending upon the emerging contradictions in social and other affairs and in case of suppression of rationalist ideals, any move to delimit it propaganda journey, DK will revolt vigorously apart from the routine agenda, much of it are of proactive nature with reformative and revolutionary objectives.
Recently a private TV Tamil channel organized for a video shoot for its telecast program on the topic ‘Thali – a boon or ban’ wherein many public, more of them were women, participated. The video shoot was over and the TV channel announced the date of telecast of the program. On knowing this, Hindutva outfits objected to the telecast and picketed the TV channel office. The TV channel unable to withstand the agitation and opposition, withdrew the program from telecast. Even then, the Hindutva outfits implanted the bomb at the premise of the TV channel.
In this background, DK President Dr. K. Veeramani addressed in an all parties public meeting, organized at Chennai to condemn the atrocities of the religious outfits, curtailing the freedom of expressions – the right provided to every citizen by Indian Constitution. In that meeting, Dr. K. Veeramani announced that DK would organize a Thali- removal Event at its head quarters premises i.e. Periyar Thidal, Chennai in democratic way and in a peaceful manner to propagate the event as a means to enlighten for the cause of women liberation. The Thali removal event would be organized on April 14 – 125th birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, declared Dr. K. Veeramani.
Action of Agent of Provocateur
On knowing the Thali removal event announced by DK President, Dr. K. Veeramani, the Hindutva forces became active to oppose it and took steps to stop the event. They gave a petition to Chennai Police Commissioner to stop the Thali removal event. They had stated that the event would be wounding the sentiments of women. They made wide propaganda against conducting the thali removal event. More than DK which had organised for the Thali removal event, Hindutva forces gave wide publicity to it by making statements in public meetings, press and print media against the thali removal event.
l Hindutva forces, in their usual style, tried to fabricate the rationalist motive of DK in conducting thali removal event. Saffron forces propagated it as Thali cutting event. Cutting the thali is forceful deed which is a religious ritual, carried out when the husband of a woman dies. The ordain of widowhood is opposed by DK. DK announced only for thali removal which was voluntary. No element of compulsion was forced. After realizing the insignificance of thali, women along which their husband prepared themselves for the removal of thali.
l “DK cadres themselves tie thali to their spouses, that too in self respect marriages. How they can advocate thali removal for others?” – This was another propaganda made by Hindutva forces. Rationalistic ideals have to be accepted based on reasoning. There is no question of faith in its acceptance and adherence. No one can be compelled to adhere to the rationalistic ideals. After listening to rationalist propaganda and reading rationalist literature, people will realize the reality and come forward for its adherence. In self – respect marriages, two minds meet and mingle, two families join. Each one may like to adhere their own preferences. It is only adjusting and accommodating and not yielding to other preference and choice. In self – respect marriages, the couple and two families have agreed to denounce the priest craft and religious rituals. But due to the strong sentiments prevalent in the society on thali, some leniency is given to tie thali that too optionally. Bride groom cannot compel bride either to be tied or not to get tied with thali and vice versa. Rationalists or any others who undertake self – respect marriage cannot compel over the issue of Thali. Giving consent for tying of thali is not based on the acceptance of values (?) attached to thali ; but it is some sort of adjustment with the hope that once the concerned couple gets convinced fully and realise the slavery stigma attached to Thali, they would come forward to remove it. How can such an approach be debated in negative sense? DK cadres are not mere abstract idealist. The rationalist ideals of Periyar will not remain as mere text. They are practical ideals. Once the practice is aimed, such adjustments become inevitable. While commenting on anything, it has to be reckoned along with the motive behind the deed and not mere the deed.
While such rhetoric against the thali-removal was carried out by religious fundamentalists, due intimation was given by DK to the Chennai Police Commissioner, stating that Thali-removal event is not a new one for DK. In many DK conferences and public meetings, such thali-removal events are taking place as a part of its propaganda. However, the Police authorities denied permission for the Thali removal event a day, prior to the event date. Immediately writ petition was filed at Madras High Court by DK. After hearing the views of DK and the Government side, the single judge of Madras High Court gave permission to DK to conduct Thali removal event. The Judgment was delivered late by 9 pm on April 13. Based on the High Court Judgment, DK proceeded on its thali removal event on the morning hours of April 14, 125th Birthday of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. State Government presented the appeal petition to Division Bench of Madras High Court at the early morning hours on April 14, despite that day being a holiday for the courts. The two judge Division Bench heard the views of both the sides and gave ruling contradicting the judgment of the single judge of the High Court, restraining the conduct of the event. When the Police authority went to DK head quarters to serve the order restraining the conduct of the event, the thali removals by 21 couples were already over and the seminar was about to commence which had to be concluded with beef feast.
After receiving the order of Tamil Nadu Government Dr. K.Veeramani openly announced to the assembled DK cadres – audience, “The High Court verdict has to be respected and we need not conduct further proceedings of the event. The stand and views of DK will be taken up with the Judiciary through proper mode”. With this announcement the meeting was stopped suddenly and DK cadres started to disperse from the Periyar Thidal. But the religious fundamentalist groups which got annoyed after knowing that the Tali removal event was over, came as a mob, despite the Police protection provided to the DK head quarters, tried to enter into the DK head quarters by shouting slogans against DK and its President Dr. K. Veeramani. The violent actions of the religious fundamentalist were resisted by the DK cadres who were present at that time. Police used lathi charge on them by which many DK cadres were injured and got admitted in the hospital. Police gave equal treatments to both the sides – the one which had acted legally as per the court permission and the other side which created unnecessary problem deliberately by entering into the DK head quarters through violent means. Police arrested few DK cadres and the religious fundamentalists, from whom hand bombs and swords were recovered by the police.
Many media both print and electronic have not covered the real issue of Thali removal event and the rationale behind it, but published the episode, conveniently editing with fabrication and pitfalls. DK had faced many such challenges and opposition during the past and in the course of judicial scrutiny, it has won the cases. What DK wanted to perform is legally correct and guaranteed constitutionally under freedom of expression. DK’s propaganda journey of enlightening the enslaved will continue with further vigour. Dogs may bark; but the Caravan will move on. The revolutionary caravan, DK will not rest until the final symbol of slavery of any kind gets, eradicated.
EXCERTS FROM THE JUDGEMENT DELIVERD BY THE SINGLE JUDGE OF MADRAS HIGH COURT HON'BLE JUSTICE D.HARIPARANTHAMAN. ON THE WRIT PETITION FILED BY DRAVIDAR KAZHAGAM TO CONDUCT THALI REMOVAL EVENT
* Thanthai Periyar, the founder of the petitioner organisation (DK), a Social Reform Movement, propagated the principles of rationalism, self – respect, women’s right, eradication of caste system and abolition of untouchability. He relentlessly fought against superstition, He preached, until his last breath, to develop scientific temper and to totally give up the old superstitious customs, rites and ceremonies. He wanted out country to catch up with the Western World by learning and adopting the modern Science and Technology and not to waste time on the Epics and the Myths.
* According to Thanthai Periyar, slavery of a workman in the Capitalist Society and the slavery of a farm labour in the feudal society would subsists so long as the slaves are in touch with their masters. But the slavery of a woman lasts till her death in the male dominated Society wherein the women are not treated equally with men in all respects. According to Thanthai Periyar, slavery of women could be compared only with the other social evil of ‘untouchability’ practiced against the Scheduled Castes. He called for abolition of both the slavery of women and untouchability. Thanthai Periyar and the Self – Respect Movement condemned in unequivocal terms against treating women as property and Re – productive Machine. The Self – Respect Movement upheld the dignity and honour of women.
* Self – respect Marriages are statutorily approved ones in view of insertion of Section 7A to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 ………….. I am of the view that Section 7A of the Hindu Marriage Act is in consonance with Article 51 A (h) of the Constitution………………….. the tying of Thali is only optional and it is not necessary to make such a Marriage valid. Hence, voluntary removal of the Thali by the women belonging to Self – Respect Movement cannot be objected to by the persons having different views on wearing of the Thali.
* The person having opposite point of view would not be permitted to determine as to whether a Citizen could exercise his Fundamental Right to freedom of speech and expression or not. The State is not helpless. The State shall control those persons in order to safeguard the Fundamental Rights.
l I am of the view that the complainant could not state that wearing of the Thali is compulsory for a married Hindu Woman. It is for the individual to decide as to whether to wear the Thali or not to wear the Thali. If one does not like to wear the Thali and voluntarily removes it, the complainant could not object to the same……………………. the allegation relating to the Programme of voluntary removal of the Thali would not constitute any offence.