(1879 -1973)



Born on 17.9.1879 to  the wealthy merchant family of Venkata Naicker and Chinnathayee Ammal at Erode, Tamil Nadu, India





His formal schooling ended at the age of ten. As he jokingly remarked to his early biographer Sami Sidambaranar, he was more interested in harassing  teachers than attending the classes.



Married  13 year old Nagammal.



Entered into the family business of trading



Went on a pilgrimage to north Indian cities of Calcutta (Kolkotta) and Benares (Varanasi) to experiment with the life of an ascetic. Disillusioned with the philosophy and practice of the sanyasins ,returned to his hometown



Took to social service works and gravitated towards Indian National Congress



Took an active role in organizing Congress Conferences.



Elected Chairman of Erode Municipality and held responsible  position in Erode Taluk Temple Committee and many other honorary posts for several years. During his tenure as the Municipal Chairman, drinking water scheme was implemented. Joined Madras Presidency Association (MPA) floated by the non-Brahmin Congress leaders to counter the Justice Party. Elected Vice-President of MPA and served as the Reception Committee Chairman for its second provincial conference held at Erode in October 1919


1919 -1920

Persuaded by C.Rajagopalachari and P.Varadarajulu Naidu,leading Congressmen of the day Periyar resigned from the Chairmanship of Erode Municipality and from many other honorary posts to plunge himself into active nationalist politics. His  brief tie-up with Annie Besant's Home Rule movement ended up in disillusionment. In his short autobiographical notes Periyar mentions that he visited Amrister after the Jalianwallabagh massacre and that what he saw and heard there made him an ardent Nationalist. He was soon to be  elected President of Tamil Nadu Congress Comiitee. From 1920 onwards he was consistently urging the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee to demand for proportional representation of non Brahmins and depressed castes in government services.



Actively involved in Gandhi's non co-operation movement and Constructive Programme together with his wife Nagammal and sister S.R.Kannammal.



Sentenced for involvement in Temperance movement and cut down 500 coconut trees in his garden.



At the session of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee held at Tiruppur in Coimbatore district he declared that Manusmriti, Ramayana and such other texts that  legitimise the Varna -Caste system be burnt to ashes.



Led the Satyagraha at Vaikom in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore for the right of the untouchable castes to use the roads around the Hindu  temple .Arrested in May, sentenced to jail term for one month and held at Arvukuththi jail and after release resumed the struggle to be sentenced to imprisonement for six months. His wife Nagammal and sister S.R.Kannammal also participated in satyagraha. Dhananjay Keer, the biographer of Dr B.R.Ambedkar writes of Vaikom struggle: "The outstanding event of the year concerning the struggle of the Depressed Classes was the Satyagraha or the passive resistance sponsored by Ramaswami Naicker, a Non-Brahmin leader at Vaikom in the Travancore State for vindicating the rights of the Untouchables to use a certain road to which they were forbidden entry. Its moral pressure and the spirit of righteous assertion had a tremendous effect, and the orthodox Hindus, for a while, regained their civic sense and sanity, and the road was thrown open to the untouchables.Ambedkar . referred to the Vaikom struggle, a few months latter, very touchingly in one of his editorials, on the eve of the Mahad Satyagraha." Always already critical of the reactionary Brahmins of the Swarajist wing of the Congress Party, Periyar began taking on  the' radical' elements on matters concerning social reforms. He vehemently criticised the practice of serving food separately for the Brahmin and non-Brahmin students in Gurukula Ashram run by V.V.S.Iyer, a Congressman ( once convicted of 'terrorist activities') out of Congress funds. The Gurukula incident exposed the growing schism between the Brahmin and non-Brahmin public figures in Tamil country.


 Periyar lent his support to the Hindu Religious Endowment Bill moved in the Madras legislature by the Justice Party ministry with a view to put an end to the monopoly of Brahmins in running the affairs of the temples and to utilize the temple funds for secular purposes.


He also presided over the 30th session of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee at Thiruvannamalai and declared that the annihilation of castes was the only means to abolish untouchability.



Still being a Congressman and with a strong faith in the efficacy of Gandhi's constructive programme in the upliftment of the poor and untouchables , Periyar launched his celebrated  Tamil weekly 'Kudi Arasu' (Republic) on 2.5.1925 for serving the cause of "Tamils such as Untouchables". With this weekly came into being his Self-Respect movement, the core philosophy was to do away with oppression and exploitation based on caste, class and gender. He parted company with the Congressmen (though not  officially making a break with the Party) after the resolution moved by him in the Tamil Nadu Congress Conference in Kanchevaram  to provide for proportional representation for   non-Brahmin and Untouchable castes in legislature, government jobs etc., was disallowed. While moving closer to the Justice party, he persuaded the latter to adopt Gandhi's constructive programme. At the same time he called for a militant non Brahminism which would not be content with the bread and crumbs offered by the rulers but would radically challenge the caste system.



Final break with Gandhi came when Periyar and other Self-Respecters failed to persuade Gandhi to give up his belief in Varnashrama Dharma. Periyar welcomed the Simon Commission as he believed that its recommendations would pave the way for the rightful representation of non Brahmin and Untouchable castes in running the affairs of the government. While his Self-Respect ideas were making a powerful appeal to the downtrodden masses crystallizing in horizontal solidarity of the backward and depressed castes throwing a powerful challenge to the status quo, he began actively supporting the Independent Ministry headed by P.Subbaroyan (after the Justice Party failed to get a majority in the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1927 elections) for its daring implementation of the Government Orders passed by the Justice ministry to give proportional representation in the Government jobs for  non Brahmins and depressed castes and for its radical measures to uplift women and depressed castes. For the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu two members of 'untouchable' community were appointed as members of Devoswam (Temple Affairs) Committee.


 Periyar supported the bill moved in the Legislative Assembly by social reformer and the Congress member Muthulakshmi Reddy to do doing away with the Devadasi system in the Temples. Copies of Manu Smriti were burnt in many Self respect meetings. Periyar removed from his name once and for all the caste appellation 'Naicker'.



In the month of May Periyar was arrested at Erode for his participation in the strike of the employees and workers of South Indian Railway. He was earlier arrested at Tiruchirapalli at the beginning of the year for his alleged provocative remarks against the upper caste Christians.


 Periyar launched his English weekly 'Revolt' on 7th November 1928. In the first anniversary number he wrote:" It was on the 7th day November 1928 that memorable day in the history of the nations, the day of the anniversary of the immortal Revolution in Russia, the day which is looked upon as the violent explosion of human liberty, the day which is memorialised by millions in Russia for the mighty mixing up of monarchs and the massed, - it was on that day that the revolt saw the light of day at Erode. Even as we pointed out at the outset, we 'unfurled the flag of revolt to destroy tyrannies and to befriend men and women'. Our aim, as we declared, was to put before our people, and humanity in general, how 'social injustice is at the root of our economic bondage and political subjugation".


'Revolt' gave extensive coverage to the anti-caste and social reform movements taking place in various parts of British India as well as in princely states. These included reports on  Adi Dravida Conference in Karaikudi, Non Brahmin Youth Conference held at Madurai, All Travancore Social Conference in Nagercoil, Anti-Caste Conference organized by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar in Nasik, Lohore conference of Jat Pat Todak Mandal. It gave great importance to the struggle waged by Samaj Samata Sangh led by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar for the rights of the Untouchables to enter the Temple in Ganesh temple in Dadar, Bombay.


Periyar and his movement put their focus on the rights and emancipation of untouchable castes and endeared themselves to the  depressed caste organizations of the day. In the Karaikudi Conference of Adi Dravida Association led by M.C.Raja, a resolution was passed urging its members to buy and read Justice Party daily 'Dravidan' and Self respect weekly 'Kudi Arasu'


Periyar welcomed into the fold of Self-Respect Movement M.Singaravelu, an outstanding intellectual (born in a poor fisherfolk family) and a radical Congressman with Buddhist scholarship  turned Communist (' the first Communist of South India').Singaravelu   began enriching the movement through  his essays on socialism, religion, superstition and rationalism. K.V.Alagarisamy, a Self-Respect veteran was instrumental in bringing this great man of letters to the movement after both of them  jointly addressed a meeting in Napier Park in Madras to condemn the death sentence awarded to Sacco and Vanzetti , the American anarchist labour leaders after a fake trial.



Published detailed reports eulogizing Dr.B.R.Ambedkar's struggles.



Organised the first Madras Provincial Self-Respect Conference at Chingleput near Chennai on 18th February 1929 sending shivers up the spines of the casteist forces across the country.


Visited Malaya and Singapore with his wife Nagammal and addressed a number of meetings organized by the expatriate Tamils with Self-Respect leanings.



Periyar published his celebrated book "Garba Aaatchi' (Right of reproduction), which anticipated many of the arguments of the radical feminists of the future. He also wrote a number of articles dealing with the questions of patriarchy and gender justice thus contributing some original and thought provoking ideas to the feminist movement in India.


Organised the second provincial self-respect conference at Erode under the presidentship of the Congress-Hindu Sabhaite M.R.Jeyakar and for the first time in the history of political gatherings in Tamil Nadu the food to the delegates was served by the Adi Dravida members of the Self- respect movement.


Criticised Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Movement and his Salt Satyagraha as these did not address  the questions of caste oppression, exploitation of the poor by rich and the gender injustice  and called Gandhi-Irvin pact as a total surrender of the Congress to the British raj. The press controlled by the Brahmins came up for severe criticism of Periyar as they glorified the participation of the Brahmin leaders who offered the least harmful Satyagraha in the civil disobedience movement while deliberately belittling the severe police repression suffered by the non Brahmin Congressmen.


Moblised public support for the Bill tabled by the Congress legislator and social reformer Muthulakshmi Reddi for the abolition of Devadasi system and criticized the Justice Party leadership for its nationalist pretences and its lukewarm attitude towards the Devadasi abolition bill.


Organised along with the Coimbatore District  Self Respect Conference, a separate conference non-Brahmin musicians whose talents and merits were systematically belittled and unrecognized by the Brahmins whose hegemony extended to all realms of public and private lives and called upon the non Brahmin artistes to assert their self-respect and fight for getting their rightful place in Concert Halls and other musical events.



Organised public meeting and published articles criticizing the All India Conference of the Indian National Congress held at Karachi. In Periyar's view the resolutions on fundamental rights passed in the Congress , especially its advocacy of 'neutrality in religious matters' held dangerous portends for the shudras and untouchable castes as they adumbrated the essential features of the Rama Rajya of Gandhi and the Congress where the caste order and religious obscurantism would be preserved (The Karachi resolutions were as follows: The articles in the Constitution relating to Fundamental Rights shall include a guarantee to the communities concerned of protection of their culture, languages, scripts, education, profession, practice religion and religious endowments.

2.Personal Laws shall be protected by specific provisions to be embodied in the Constitution.)


Periyar and  other self-respecters wrote and spoke in support of Bhagat Singh who in their view was betrayed by Gandhi and his Congress.Periyar offered a trenchant theoretical and philosophical critique of Gandhi's philosophy of 'ahimsa' and his claims of listening to the dictates of 'conscience'.


 29.3.1931 issue of 'Kudi Arasu' published an important speech of Prof Lakshminarasu,  co-founder of South Indian Buddhist Association on "Untouchability and Samadharma"


Organised the third provincial Self-Respect conference at Virudhunagar in response to the Karachi Congress. With S.Ramanathan, a leading Self-Respecter, translated from English and published 'The Communist Manifesto' in Kudi Arasu. The Tamil version with Periyar's lengthy introduction was published in 'Kudi Arasu' weekly from 4.10.1931 to 25.10.1931.


In compliance with a resolution passed in the

third provincial self-respect conference, Periyar accompanied by S.Ramanathan began his long foreign trip to learn from the experiences of various countries in solving social problems. He made brief visits to South Africa, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy. But his primary interest was Soviet Union where he stayed from 13.2.1932 to 19.5.1932 visiting factories, Communist Party functionaries, Atheist Groups etc. In Germany he met Communist and anarchist leaders and the Nudists. He briefly joined the Nudist Club to experiment with the idea of shedding the gendered notions of shame, honour, decency and 'naturally endowed sexual differences.



In London he had several meetings with  Sarbuji Sakhlatwala, the Communist leader and  the first Indian ever to be elected to the British  several times and accompanied him to several public meetings of workers and communists and shared the platform with him in a few meetings.



On his way back home he spent three weeks in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to propagate Self Respect and Socialist ideas. His audience comprised mostly of depressed caste migrant workers. He returned to his hometown Erode on 11.11.1932

In December, along with  M.Singaravelu, P.Jeevanandam and other leading socialist inclined Self respecters,  drafted and published the 'Samadharma (Socialist) Programme', popularly known as 'Erode Plan'.


During Periyar's absence, in tune with  his principles and commitments leading Self-Respecters like S.Gurusamy, Ponnamblanar, M.Singaravelu ,G.Appaduraiyar organized several meetings independently and also jointly with many Adi Dravida Associations to support Ambedkar's struggle for separate electorate for untouchables and condemned Gandhi's 'fast unto death' that resulted in the infamous Poona pact.  In March, 1932 Self-respect , Buddhist and Adi Dravida Conferences were organized at Kolar Gold Fields. Justice Party was the only political party in South India that supported the separate electorate demand.





Periyar carried out intensive propaganda of socialist thoughts across the Tamil Country. Wrote and spoke against the activities of Harijan Sewak Sangh of Gandhi and Congress.

With the help of S.Ramanathan, translated from English and published Frederic Engels's 'Principles of Communism' and Lenin's article 'Tolstoy the mirror of Russian Revolution' and a few of his letters to Maxim Gorky on religion. Periyar kept drawing an analogy between Tolstoyism and Gandhism and argued how the latter functioned as an ideological mystification blurring one's view of social reality.


  Periyar organized anti-Zamindar Conference and spoke against the reactionary princely states.



Nagammal, Periyar's wife and comrade-in-arms passed away on 11.5.1933. The obituary Periyar wrote remains till date one of the moving account of their dedication to each other, the sharing of ideals and a self-introspection on the part of Periyar about the extent to which he lived up to his own advocacy of gender justice.



Very next day Periyar left for Tiruchirapalli to conduct self-respect, inter-caste and inter-religious marriage defying the prohibitory order under Section 144 of IPC imposed to prevent Periyar from attending the function.



For the editorial 'Why the present form of Government should go?' published in 29.10.1933 issue of' Kudi Arasu' weekly he and his sister and the publisher of the journal S.R.Kannammal were arrested under Section 124 -A (sedition charges),  his house was searched and 46 'seditious' letters were confiscated. Both of them were incarcerated in Coimbatore Central Prison. The carping criticism made by Periyar and his followers of the practice of untouchability and casteism  amongst the Catholics  and their publication of anti-clerical articles of  Bertrand Russell, Ingersol, Jean Meslier and Voltaire  invited   the wrath of the Catholic clergy  who appealed to the Pope to urge the British Government to ban the Self-Respect Movement.




As Periyar had already planned to bring out another Self-Respect journal in the event of 'Kudi Arasu' being banned or prosecuted, he had another weekly 'Puratchi' (Revolution) launched in 1933. It , together with another self respect journal 'Samadhramam' edited and published by Parthasarathi in Jalarpet, North

Arcot district  kept publishing  articles on socialism, Soviet Union, women's rights, fascism, critiques of Gandhism and also articles supporting the Justice Party candidates for the Central Assembly bye-elections. The editor and Periyar's elder brother E.V.Krishnasamy,himself a leading self-respecter  had to face  charges of sedition.



Schism  that began to develop between Periyar and like minded persons on one hand and M.Singaravelu and his 'communist' colleagues on the other   over the question of supporting the Justice Party and implementing the 'Erode Socialist Programme'  began to surface.


 The weekly 'Puratchi' had to be fold up because of Government repression and also in view of the virulent opposition from religious fundamentalists and Periyar,using his tactical genius, had another weekly launched this time.


'Pakutharivu' (Rationalism) weekly was  launched with E.V.Krishnasamy as the editor. A daily and a monthly with the same name were also brought out. The daily had to fold up shortly due to financial constraints.


P.Jeevanandam who translated into Tamil , Bhagat Singh's ' Why I am an Atheist?' and E.V.Krishnasamy, Periyar's elder brother who published it on behalf of the self-respect press were arrested under Section 124 A of IPC (sedition). Periyar asked them to give an undertaking to the Government that they would not indulge in such seditious and anti-government activities and secure their release. In response to the criticism from the young and more militant self -respecters that Periyar's act was a regretful compromise and a sign of  cowardice, he owned up the responsibility for asking his colleagues to give such an undertaking but argued that he was not interested in 'martyrdom' either for himself or for other self-respecters but was only exploring avenues to carry forward the self-respect works in a charged  political climate where, according to his reading, the Congress-British alliance was being forged after 1932 Gandhi-Irvin Pact and Gandhi's influence was increasing in civil society while the Government were contemplating a ban on Self-Respect movement following the ban imposed on the Communist party. Periyar argued for a pragmatic way forward steering clear of the obstacles being erected from various directions.



 There was a meeting of Periyar and C.Rajagopalachari in Coimbatore Central Prison where the latter was held on account of his participation in individual satyagraha movement and it was widely believed that Periyar was contemplating reaccommodation within the Congress Party. A modified and much watered down version of Erode programme was sent by Periyar to both the Congress and Justice Party on the condition that whichever party accepted it  would  get his support  in the elections. While the Congress Party ridiculed it as a pale imitation of Karachi resolutions, Periyar pointed out that the Karachi resolutions did not contain anything relating to the upliftment of women and the untouchable castes. On the other hand, the 'leftist' elements led by M.Singaravelu parted company with Periyar and joined the Congress Socialist Party to strengthen the Congress Party which in their view was a 'mighty anti-imperialist force' and criticised the  Justice party as the party of British toadies, job-seekers and landlords . It is noteworthy that Periyar allowed democratic dissent within his movement allowing those like M.Singaravelu who opposed his positions to air their views through editorials and articles in his journals.



 Periyar and his supporters campaigned for the victory of the Justice Party candidates in 1934 bye-elections. But with the Congress Party's growing influence  in realms of both the political and civil societies and in view of the failure of the Justice leadership to develop mass organizations,  the Justice Party candidates were defeated.


Lent his support to 'Tamizh Isai Movement' , a movement for securing a place for Tamil songs in the repertoire of the Carnatic Musicians performing in the Concert Halls.




Periyar  enthusiastically welcomed Ambedkar's decision to leave the Hindu fold and convert to another religion of his choice. He continued with publishing articles on  communism and Soviet experiments. Some publications of Self respect movement  such as the Tamil version of Bhagat Singh's 'Why I am an Atheist' were confiscated by the police and he was asked to  pay security deposits to the government.


He called upon the Self-Respecters to celebrate the May Day through out the Tamil Country. Till then the May Day celebration was observed only in the city of Madras.


Consequent to the efforts made by the Justice Party backed by Periyar's  Self -Respect movement, the Viceroy's Government passed  the G.O.No.14634 dated 15.3.1935 for reservation of jobs for non Brahmins and scheduled castes in the Central Government Services in Madras Presidency. The G.O.  implemented in 1936 was withdrawn one and a half months after the Independence (ie from 30.9.1947) by the  Congress Government.




While the Congress Party was registering bigger and bigger victories in civic polls of 1936, the fortunes of the  faction ridden Justice Party started sliding down. Periyar's programme was accepted by the Party only by the end of 1936 and in response to the Congress critics who claimed that it was only a pale imitation of their Karachi resolutions, Periyar challenged them to show whether there was anything in the Congress programme similar to the ones he had included in his own for the removal of discrimination based on castes, upliftment of women and for proportional representation. Unruffled by the series of defeats faced by the Justice Party he and his self- respect colleagues went ahead  with concentrating their energies on social issues.


Periyar serialised the Tamil translation of B.R.Ambedkar ' Annihilation of Castes' in 'Kudi Arasu' from its issue dated 24.7.1936 and each installment was accompanied by a photograph of Ambedkar. It was published in a book form in 1937.


The 'communist' self-respecters who made a final break with Periyar launched a short-lived 'Suyamariyadhai Samadharma Party' only to merge it with the Congress Socialist Party with the intention of serving the 'mighty anti-imperialist force' that was Congress!





Took over the responsibility of bringing out the Justice Party's Tamil daily 'Viduthalai'               ( Liberation). He infused the columns of the daily with anti-caste, self-respect ideas. In the first general elections held for the Madras Legislative Council under the Government of India Act, the Congress won an impressive majority trouncing the Justice Party. When the Congress wavered for some time on the question of forming a ministry in 1937, a non-Brahmin ministry was formed with the help of the Justice Party members and the Adi Dravida leader M.C.Raja. But Periyar was keen to see the formation of a Congress ministry as he was convinced  that all its weaknesses, its will to power at any cost  and its class-caste character would  unfold  themselves through its acts of commissions and omissions.


Successfully pressurized the Railway authorities to abolish the arrangements to serve food for Brahmins and non Brahmins in separate partitions in Railway station restaurants.

The Congress ministry headed by C.Rajagopalachari, in the name of slashing the government expenditure in view of the fall in  the government revenue resulting from the  partial prohibition implemented in the state closed down hundreds of primary school depriving the children of backward and untouchable castes of basic education. The ministry also tried to implement Gandhi's Wardha Scheme in the educational institutions, thus clandestinely introducing the varna system. It put down with iron hand the struggles of the workers and arrested the leading members of the Congress Socialist Party. To cap its reactionary measures, the ministry introduced the scheme of compulsory learning of Hindi in selected schools to be extended to all other schools in future. C.Rajagoplachari argued that by learning Hindi one can read Thulasidas's Ramayana in original. Sensing that the scheme of compulsory learning of Hindi was a clever ploy to build Sanskritic-Brahminical ideological hegemony, Periyar and the self-respecters and Justice Party members decided to wage a relentless battle against the scheme. Almost every segment of the Tamil populace including a section of the Congressmen joined the anti-Hindi agitation launched by Periyar. Several hundreds of agitators were arrested under various sections of the IPC including 124A. Two of them, one a Dalit and another from a most backward community  died on account of ill treatment in the prisons. In the Tamil Nadu Women's Conference held at Chennai on 12,13.11.1938, it was unanimously resolved that E.V.Ramasamy would hereafter be addressed only with the honorific 'Periyar'(Great Man) and not by his name. For the anti-Hindi speeches he made in this women's conference and in Pethunaickenpet, Chennai on 13th and 14th November 1938 respectively, Periyar was arrested  under section 117 of IPC and Criminal Law Amendment Act Section I and sentenced to two year rigorous imprisonment. It was later commuted to one year simple imprisonment. First lodged in the Central Prison in Chennai, he was later shifted to the jail in Bellary (now part of Karnataka)




The active members of the rudderless, leaderless Justice Party, seeing the immense popularity of Periyar, elected him their Party President on 29.12.1938 in its Provincial Conference held at Madras. As Periyar was in prison, his presidential address was read out by A.T.Panneerselvam, a leading Justicite and a former Minister.




The anti-Hindi agitation joined and supported by various streams and strands of Tamil enthusiasts and anti-Brahmin militants crystallized into a veritable Tamil Nationalist movement with a demand , first for separation of Tamil speaking areas from the erstwhile composite Presidency of Madras and subsequently for a separate country. Periyar endorsed the demand for a separate Tamil Nadu which he later made it a demand for Dravida Nadu roughly approximating the geographical boundaries of the  composite Madras Presidency of his time. He wanted it to enjoy the status of a separate  dominion state under the British Crown  with a view to protect it from the exploitative machinations of  what he called the Brahmin- North Indian (Bania) alliance.




When the Second world War broke out, Periyar had to hand over 'Viduthalai' for propaganda for mobilizing support and funds for war efforts. He argued that though it was the Brahmins who reaped  unprecedented benefits under the British Raj, it was necessary that the allied nations in which the Britain was a part win the war, lest the axis powers would reverse the course of history and the non Brahmins and untouchables would have to start their struggle from the very beginning. He was systematically exposing the 'doublespeak' of the Congress vis--vis the war and argued that all its 'anti-war' talks were only camouflages for its underhand dealings with the Britishers.



Met Ambedkar and Mohamed Ali Jinnah at Bombay on 8.1.1940 and signed a joint statement calling upon all the secular anti-Congress forces to unite to defeat the claims of the Congress as the sole representative of the entire population of India. Periyar also sought the support of Ambedkar and Jinnah for his Dravida Nadu demand.


Periyar denounced  the demand of the Congress to form a National Government and its claim to be the sole representative of the Indian people. 'Kudi Arasu' criticized Gandhi's letters to Hitler and his appeals to the people of Czechoslovakia and England threatened by the Nazi forces not to offer any resistance and allow the invaders to take over their land and other material belongings excepting their minds and spirits.

Periyar suspected that the individual satyagraha  offered by the Congressmen to express their 'disapproval' of involving India in war efforts was actually a drama pre-arranged with the consent of the British rulers to hoodwink the people. Periyar also pointed out that the 'war committees' set up by the government were dominated by Brahmins.




Periyar and the self-respecters were keenly watching the developments within the Congress and placed on records the manouvres of Gandhi, Nehru and other leaders to marginalize Subhas Chandra Bose.  They also exposed the betrayal of the people of princely states by Gandhi and other  Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel.Periyar intensified his campaign for separate Dravida Nadu by organizing meetings and publishing articles. Number of articles supporting Soviet Union's war against Fascism was published.



When the members of  British Cabinet mission led by Sir Stafford Cripps appointed by the British Government visited India to find solutions for political demands,  Periyar led the Justice Party delegation and argued for a separate electorate for the non Brahmins on a scale that would automatically make their representatives majority in the Province since under the prevailing conditions they would not get the majority in the legislature either through the vote or through a plebiscite as they would be outmanoeuvred by the powerful elements comprised of more wealthy and powerful Brahmin population. This demand was turned down  by Cripps.  Responding to C.Rajagoplachari's satirical remarks that those who claim to represent a majority seeking protection from the manipulations of a minority was something unheard of, Periyar remarked that out of 10000 people who gather in a market place, 9990 people had to protect their wallets from 10 pickpockets.



Periyar was keenly watching the political developments in the country and kept commenting on the material support the Congress and its wealthy patrons were rendering to the British war effort and the rich dividends they were receiving in return.  Periyar criticized 'Quit India Movement' announced by Gandhi in September 1942 as an invitation to the Japanese Fascists to land in Indian soil.



Periyar resumed publication of 'Kudi Arasu' which was not allowed to be published  during the first three years of war. Welcomed the rout of the Nazi army by the heroic resistance of the Soviet people and the Red  army and wrote that the "Quit India Movement' was a gamble played by Gandhi and Congress anticipating the defeat of the allied nations and the victory of axis forces.



He announced the scientific possibility of having 'test tube' babies and argued that this would reduce the reproductive burden on women.




At the provincial Conference of Justice Party held at Salem , he had the name of the Justice Party (South Indian Liberal Federation) changed as 'Dravidar Kazhagam'. One of the resolutions passed in the Conference  called upon all the non Brahmins to throw away the titles and honours conferred on them by the British. Periyar also revived the demand for separate electorate for scheduled castes.



Another resolution demanding a separate, sovereign Dravida Nadu completely independent of the British Rule was also passed




Dr B.R.Ambedkar called on Periyar at Chennai and discussed with him  the political developments in India. According to the  report on the meeting published in 'Kudi Arasu' Ambedkar was understood to have agreed with the contents of the resolutions of the Salem Conference of the Justice Party and supported the Dravida Nadu demand.'Kudi Arasu' also reported that Ambedkar wanted even the Maharashtra part of the country be included in Dravida Nadu. On the same evening Ambedkar met the leaders of a section of the old Justicites who disagreed with Periyar's idea of clubbing social issues with political ones and functioned under the old name. Ambedkar frankly expressed his unhappiness about the elitist nature of the (old) Justice Party which failed to develop any grass root social base and was interested only in hunting for government jobs and positions.





Dr.B.S.Moonje , the leader of Hindu Maha Sabha during his visit to Chennai called on Periyar and discussed with him the political changes that were taking place. According to the reports published in 'Kudi Arasu', Periyar insisted on removing the hegemony of the Brahmins in the social and political life of the country and that Separate Dravida Nadu was the only solution for the non Brahmins




Periyar  visited Calcutta and addressed M.N.Roy's Radical Democratic Party' Conference on December 27, 1944. He also visited Kanpur and addressed Non-Brahmin backward classes Conference.


Self-Respect journals like 'Kudi Arasu' and 'Dravida Nadu' expressed their support to the Indian National Army men taken prisoners by the British and also those participated in the RIN 'mutiny'. Periyar and his journals launched trenchant criticisms of Communists who instead of targeting the 'Brahmin-Bania' Congress were attacking the Justicites and self-respecters. 'Kudi Arasu' described the Hindu Maha Sabha and the Communists as the right and left wing respectively of the Congress.




Periyar launched the short lived English weekly ' Justicite'



Periyar  felt that  that Brahmin-Bania-British Pact was taking concrete  shape. The Congress registered massive victory in the elections to the Central and State legislatures conducted in 1945-46 and Periyar was helplessly watching the situation. Tamil Nadu Communists who campaigned for the most reactionary Brahmin candidates came up for severe condemnation.


He organized the Dravidar Kazhagam conference in Trichy on September 29 and 30,1945 and floated a volunteer corps under the name of 'Black Shirt Volunteer Force'. For him the 'black' denoted the unfreedom and degradation of Dravidians.




Periyar launched campaigns against the Congress Ministry in Madras Presidency headed by Prakasam for its pro-Brahmin and anti-labour policies. Despite serious difference of opinions with the Communists, the Dravidar Kazhagam of Periyar supported the struggles of the labour unions under their control. They played an important role in mobilizing the support for the struggle of the Railway workers in Ponmalai near Tiruchirapalli which was ruthlessly suppressed by the Congress ministry.



On 11.5.1946, the State level  Conference of the Dravidar Kazhagam was held in Madurai. The venue of the Conference was attacked  by the hooligans reported to have been instigated  by the Congress Brahmins. They also set fire to it and disrobed a woman activist. The orgy of violence and mayhem was such that Periyar and some of the important leaders could not reach the venue for several hours. The official flag of the Dravidar Kazhagam - black background with red circle in the middle - symbolizing  the  degradation  to which  the Dravidians were subjected  and the liberation that would dawn on them respectively was created. Periyar condemned the undemocratic and unrepresentative manner in which the Constituent Assembly was created.



When the Cabinet Mission deputed by the British Government recommended the grouping of British Indian provinces in A,B.C categories and permitting the princely states to decide on their own future, Periyar, despite his unhappiness about  the proposal,  made  last ditch efforts to mobilize the non-Brahmin opinion and support cutting across the party lines to see that Madras Presidency was  not tied to A Group (which included Bombay Presidency)  but remained autonomous within a broad Confederation. Periyar expressed his anger against the way a Constituent Assembly to draft the future constitution of India was constituted.




 In a mass meeting of Adi Dravidas Periyar expressed his unhappiness about Ambedkar joining the Constituent Assembly. He opined that in view of the absence of a strong   political and social base for Ambedkar , the 'Aryans' were able to 'appropriate' him making him no longer able to  thunder against the reactionary Brahmins and call such 'sacred' texts as Bhagavat Gita as a blabber of a fool as he did in the Viceroy's Executive Council.


When the British Government announced its decision to partition India and grant dominion status to India and Pakistan, Periyar was shocked by the blatant arbitrariness displayed by  the Brahmin-Bania-British alliance  in deciding on the future of the Indian people. He sent a telegraphic message to the British Primier Atlee requesting him to reconsider the decision and do justice to all sections of the Indian people.


Periyar called upon his followers and the general public to observe August 15, 1947 as a day of mourning. The General Secretary of Dravidar Kazhagam, C.N.Annadurai , however wrote that it was a day of rejoicing, thus paving the way for the irreversible split in Periyar's movement.


 Periyar and the  leading Dravidar Kazhagam intellectual S.Gurusamy engaged the Communists in polemics on the nature of Indian Independence.



 Periyar called upon the people of Tamil Nadu  to observe July 1 as the 'Dravida Nadu separation day'. On 14.9.1947 he organized a mammoth Dravida Nadu separation conference at Cuddalore. It was addressed amongst others Thiru Vi.Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar, a celebrated Congress nationalist, trade unionist and a Tamil man of letters.



To protest against the imposition of Hindi  Periyar convened the meeting of all- party leaders in Chennai. He violated the ban order imposed under Section 144 IPC at Kumbakonam to assert the right of freedom expression against the imposition of Hindi. Arrested  again along with several hundreds of Dravidar Kazhagam volunteers when they staged a protest against the visit of C.Rajagoplachari, the Governor General of India. Organised a massive Dravidar Kazhagam Conference at on May 8 and 9. He also organized a conference on 'Thirukural', the classical Tamil work on Ethics in order to popularize it amongst Tamil masses.



From 1948 to 1952 he and his leading cadres supported the demand for the civil and political rights of the Communists whose party was banned in 1949. The campaigns led by him and his party men resulted in the commutation of death sentences given to 11 communist workers who participated in Telengana struggle. Leading Communists of the day S.A.Dange, A.K.Goplan and M.Kalyanasundaram placed on records their appreciation of the support rendered by Periyar.


When Gandhi was assassinated by a Brahmin Hindu fanatic, Periyar was deeply distressed and disturbed. He gave a moving talk in the All India Radio helping to restore peace and order and wrote that since the Independent India owed its being to Gandhi it should be named 'Gandhi Nadu' (Gandhi desh)



Married Maniammai, a long standing Dravidar Kazhagam worker. This marriage was used as pretext for C.N.Annadurai and his followers to break away from Periyar to form Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Periyar condemned the manner in which the Constitution of India was passed at the end of 1949. He violated the ban order imposed under Section 144 of IPC at Udumalpet and courted arrest.



He called upon the Dravidar Kazahgam workers and the public to observe the Republic Day (January 26) as the 'day of mourning' . He and his cadres picketed the commercial venues of north Indians to oppose the north Indian domination and also to protect the interests of the Tamil handloom weavers.


He raged against the judgments of the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court of India against the reservation for backward castes in educational institutions  in Madras Province. The Courts said that this was violative of Artilce 29(2) of the Constitution of India. Periyar convened the leaders of the non Brahmin community and organized a conference at Trichy in December on Communal Representation. Also organized several hundreds of meetings all over Tamil Nadu criticizing the Constitution. Organised black flag demonstrations against the Central ministers visiting Tamil Nadu.



His brother and a leading self-respecter E.V.Krishnasamy passed away.



The agitations launched by him to restore Communal Representation bore fruit. On 2nd June 1951, the first amendment to the Constitution was made. A new sub-clause 4 was included in Article 15 of the Constitution of India for guaranteeing constitutional validity for reservation in educational institutions for the backward classes>this amendment facilitated     for reservation  for scheduled castes and tribes in educational insittutuions. Dr B.R.Ambedkar played a crucial role in persuading Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Premier of Independent India to bring in this amendment.


Periyar and Dravidar Kazhagam differed with Ambedkar on certain aspects of India's foreign policy and also on Kashmir question. As against Ambedkar's proposal that Jammu and Kashmir be divided into three parts on religious lines and that Hindu and Buddhist majority parts be merged with India, Dravidar Kazhagam maintained that the question of self-determination of Kashmir must be decided by the Kashmir people themselves and that the armies of both India and Pakistan be pulled out. Dravidar Kazhagam  disapproved of Ambedkar's opposition to bring into UN, the People's Republic of China and also his proposal that India should have a military alliance with US in order to reduce military expenses.In Dravidar Kazhagam's view such a thought itself would be detrimental to the interests of the very working people for whose leader Ambedkar was. It however welcomed Ambedkar's decision to quit Nehru's cabinet.



Periyar played a crucial role in seeing that the Congress did not get a majority in the erstwhile presidency of Madras in the first general elections conducted on the basis of universal suffrage. He offered support to the Communist candidates in selected constituencies  while working for the victory of others whom he believed would fight for the implementation of Social Justice creed of his movement. His colleague and editor of 'Viduthalai'. S.Gurusuamy entered into polemics with the Communists on the question of the exploitative role played by Brahmins, temples and the question of self-determination of Dravida Nadu.


 Once C.Rajagoplachari captured the power through 'back entry' ( by getting nominated a member of the upper house of the Legislature by the then Governor of Madras) Periyar launched a series of agitations. His papers and publications were confiscated several times and was asked to remit security deposits to run his daily 'Viduthalai'. He launched the struggle to erase the Hindi words in the name boards in Railway Stations. In the local body elections, he used his energy to defeat the Communist candidates. Convinced of the need to have separate workers and peasant organizations for Dravidians, he floated Southern Railwaymen Associan and Dravida Vivasay Thozhilalar Sangham (Dravidian Agricultural Labourers's Association)




Paid rich tributes  to Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union. Periyar called him the last of the Great Men of the century.


Celebrated Buddha Jeyanthi  all over Tamil Nadu and organised  state wide breaking of the idols of Vinayaka with a view to oppose idolatry. In Chennai city alone hundreds of Vinayaka idols were broken in a stretch of Mount Road where the offices of the dailies 'The Hindu' and 'Swadesamitran' considered by Periyar as the leading mouthpieces of Brahminical orthodoxy were located. Buddha Jeyanti was celebrated in a number of towns by the Dravidar Kazhagam members.



He toured the entire Tamil country to mobiles public opinion against the varnadharmic education system  C.Rajagopalachari ministry tried to introduce in the primary schools. According to this 'hereditary vocation scheme' the students were expected to attend the classes for a half a day and then in the afternoon , practice the traditional vocations of their families. He organized  a Conference at Erode against C.Rajagopalachari's education policy under the chairmanship of S.B.Adityan, Editor of the Tamil Daily 'Thina Thanthi'. Following day  a Buddhist Conference was conducted  with Rajbhoj, M.P. and the General Secretary of All India Depressed Classes  Association and Dr.Mallalasekara, leading Buddhist scholar from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) as Chief Guests.


With a view to unseat C.Rajagoplachari from power and bring in K.Kamaraj, a non Brahmin leader Periyar relaxed the intensity of the anti-Congress crusade he began in 1925. By getting K.Kamaraj elected in a bye-election, Periyar put an end to the C.Rajagopalachari's reactionary education scheme. On August 1, he and his followers erased the Hindi words from the sign boards in Railway stations.


Went to Burma accompanied by Maniammai and participated in the World Buddhist Conference held on December 3 along with Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Dr Mallalasekara. When persuaded by Dr Ambedkar to embrace Buddhism,  Periyar told him that tactically and strategically he preferred to remain in 'Hindu' fold to challenge it from within since converting to other religions would deprive him of the right to speak against Hindu religion.




Protesting against the imposition of Hindi he announced that that the National Flag would be burnt across the Tamil Country. On getting the assurance from the State and Central governments that Hindi would not be a compulsory lesson for examinations, he temporarily withdrew the agitation.



Had the pictures of Rama set to fire in hundreds of places across the Tamil country. He resolutely opposed the scheme of creating a 'Dakshin Pradesh' comprised of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in place of forming separate states on linguistic basis. He considered this scheme as a conspiracy to make the Tamils a  minority in the new formation and establish the hegemony of Brahmins and other upper castes. He declared that the Tamil speaking areas alone would be the geographical boundaries of his Dravida Nadu.


Wrote a moving and tearful portrait of  Dr.B.R.Ambedkar on the eve of his death. Periyar described him as a scholar par excellence and suspected a foul play in his death.



To Vinoba Bhave, the Sarvodya leader who met Periyar in Trichy, the latter frankly  explained to him his views on Ramayana and why he wanted it to be burnt. When  strictures were passed by the Brahmin judges against a very upright non Brahmin  Collector of Tiruchirapalli district, Periyar toured the entire Tamil country vehementy criticising  the judgment thus inviting Defamation of Court  proceedings. Periyar  filed a historic affidavit in the  High Court of Madras   justifying his criticism of the Brahmin judges. He organized agitations to erase the words 'Brahmin' in the sign boards of hotels and restaurants as it signified the casteist superiority of the Brahmins. The struggle continued for nearly an year against an unrelenting Hotel owner in Madras who finally agreed to remove the word from his hotel sign boards. Periyar always used such peaceful agitations as pedagogic exercises to teach and disseminate his self-respect ideas.


When  unprecedented caste clashes took place in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu between upper castes led by the former Congressman and Forward Block Member of parliament Muthuramalinga Thevar, Periyar resolutely stood by the side of the Adi Dravidas and touring the country, urged the state government to unwaveringly suppress the upper caste elements who unleashed  an orgy of violence and murder against the helpless Adi Dravidas. It is noteworthy that all the parliamentary parties  including the Communists were agitated over the arrest of Muthuramalinga Thevar but not  about the Adi Dravida victims.



At a special function at Thanjavur on 3.11.1957, he called upon the members and supporters of Dravidar Kazhagam to burn copies of the Indian Constitution which  in his view, through Article 372 and connected Sections,  protect the caste system. In response to his call nearly 10000 persons all over Tamil Nadu burnt the copies of the relevant parts of the Constitution on  26.11.1957 (the Constitution  day). The State repression was so severe that they were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment ranging from a period of six months to three years. Two of them died in prisons. Periyar was charged with acts of criminal instigation of  his followers to assault the Brahmins  with deadly weapons. He was sentenced to one and a half year imprisonment. The Tamil population rose in revolt against this harsh punishment.



Released from the prison and was accorded an enthusiastic reception at Chennai on May 13.



Undertook a tour of north India and addressed the meetings organized by the Republican Party of India in Kanpur, Lucknow, Delhi and Bombay. He also addressed a several meetings of College students there. With the funds collected from the people of Tamil Nadu, he bought the dilapidated  and abandoned Tram Shed at Egmore , Chennai where he established his headquarters.



To gain support for his separate Tamil Nadu demand, he asked his followers to burn the map of India excluding the part that showed Tamil Nadu. He was arrested under Section 151 of  Preventive Detention Act.



Toured all over Tamil Nadu to mobilize support for the state government led by K.Kamraj as this ministry was implementing a number of schemes beneficial to backward classes and scheduled castes.



Campaigned vigorously for the victory of Kamaraj led Congress in the general elections. He gave tentative support to Nehru as well on the ground that the latter was implementing socialist programmes.


When the border war between India and China broke out, he went around and mobilized support for the Indian Government calling the Chinese  'aggressors'



When Kamaraj mooted a plan by which all the leading Congress leaders would give up offices and concentrate their energies to strengthen the party organization and set a precedence, Periyar unsuccessfully dissuaded him.



The Judgment of the  Supreme Court invalidating the Tamil Nadu Land Ceiling Act passed by Kamaraj Government, was condemned by  Periyar who began mobilizing  public opinion against the judgment.