Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mahatma Ayyankali Movement - Prof. Dr. Suresh Mane.


Prof. Dr. Suresh Mane.
Sreenarayana Guru was born in an Ezhava untouchable community, whereas Mahatma Ayyankali was born in pulaya community, another untouchable caste in Kerala.. He was born into a very poor and illeterate Pulaya family on august 28, 1863. Despite his major role in the uplift of his community and the socio-political reforms in Kerala, Ayyankali is hardly known to anybody outside Kerala. Mahatma Ayyankali was the contemporary of Sree Narayana Guru, Dr. Palpu and poet Kumaran Asan. In early days of his life he was terrified by the social oppression, discrimination and caste distinctions that his community and to put up with. During his time the untouchable were serfs and servants of the upper caste.

In the initial stage of his struggle, he organised his friends to oppose social injustices being meted out to their follow men and woman beside the practice of untouchability. The basic agenda of his struggle was civil liberties to the untouchables. In 1898 he took his cart onto the forbidden street by challenging the supremacy of high caste people. His followers were branded as 'Ayyankali Pada' (Ayyankali troops). His struggle was for social freedoms and self-respect. ayyankali was uneducated but had a very high practical wisdom to frame an agenda for the liberation of the Dalits. Like Phule in Maharashtra, he also realized the three-fold problems of the untouchables - education, government jobs and right to farmlands.His efforts for Dalit liberation were as follows.

1. To assert the right of education he started pre-primary school in 1904 for the touchables that was demolished and brunt by the upper caste. It resulted in clashes between the untouchables and upper castes. To secure the right for the into schools, in June 1913, Ayyankali organise a strike by agricultural laborers. The strike was called off in May, 1914. This was the first strike by the agricultural laborers in Kerala. In 1916 he established Theeyankara Pulaya School and in 1919 he set up one school for Christian converts too.

2. Ayyankali and his followers asserted their freedom through the public road from Venganoor to Trivandrum and they exercised it too. But during the return journey the upper asserted pounced upon them with weapons, but only to be beaten by the Ayyankali.

3. To organaise the untouchables and Dalit Christians, in 1907, Ayyankali founded an organisation called the Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sanfham (SJPS) patterned on the SNDP Yogam... The Prime objective of his organization was to safeguard the basic rights of the untouchables.

4. Ayyankali was the first man in Kerala to demand agricultural land for the untouchables.

5. Although Ayyankali was uneducated, he started a monthly called "Sadhujanaparipalini' in 1916 with the help of his colleagues. Probably it was the first magazine to be brought out by untouchable.

6. Ayyankali ordered the untouchable woman to give up their habit of wearing necklace of carved granite since it was the sign of slavery.

7. Ayyankali did not give much importance to the temple entry movement in Kerala.

8. ayyankali did not show any inclination towards the Congress, Gandhi, or the Independence movement. Like Mahatma Phuley, ayyankali also faced several attempts on his life The agitated upper caste landlords hired some grooms to kill him. But like Phuley he also won the battle with his enemies.

Ayyankali was also conscious about the political rights of his people. In Maharaja's Praja Sabha very section of society was given a representation but the Pulaya numbering 5,00,000 were represented by Karamana P K Govinda pillai, in high caste Hindu.Therefore in 1912, when the Maharaja as member of the Sree Moolam rajasabha Ayyankali, he requested the Maharaja to nominate one representative per 100,000  Pulayas.

In his First speech 1912, he strongly demanded the allotment of public land for the untouchables. On March 12, 1912 he demanded the entry of Pulaya children into schools and fee concession for them. He also asked for appointments for Pulayas in helth, medical and engineering departments. On February 29, 1916 in his speech at the Praja Sabha, he demanded 500 acres of land for the untouchables.

Ayyankaali started a system of parallel courts to settle the disputes between the untouchables. These community courts were held at the branch office of SJPS. These community courts followed all the regular practices of the court. Lawyers come to argue and judgments, orders and directives were sent to the branch offices of SJPS for implementation. Without coming the branch of law to save his people from brutal punishments in the hands of the upper caste, Ayyankali created parallel law and order machinery.

Ayyankali died on June 18, 1941. He was true leader of agricultural laborers, workers, untouchable and all the oppressed people of Kerala. The SJPS under his leadership, and the SNDP under the leadership of Narayana Guru, were primarily responsible for the social changes in Kerala.

The sad part of Kerala history is that Ayyankali come into contact with Gandhi but from the history records it appears that the never came into contact with Ambedkar. Had it been happened not only the history of the Dalit movement in Kerala would have been different but also today's face and shape of the backward movement in Kerala  would have been altogether different.

Along with Sreenarayana guru and Mahatma Ayyankali, the place of Sree Kumara Guru Devan (Poikayil Yohannan, 1879 - 1939) the founder of 'Prtyaksha Raksha Daiva Sbha' (PRDS-1908) is also a prime importance.