Stalin to inaugurate Vaikom centenary in Kerala
DECCAN CHRONICLE | G Babu Jayakumar & D Sekar
Chennai: Chief Minister M K Stalin will be inaugurating, along with his Kerala counterpart Pinayari Vijayan on April 1, a 603-day celebration, marking the centenary of the historic Vaikom struggle of 1924 that was a pioneering socio-political fight against untouchability aimed at upholding social justice.
Vijayan’s letter to Stalin, inviting him to inaugurate the celebrations at Vaikom in Kottayam district was personally handed over by Kerala Minister for Fisheries, Culture and Youth Welfare, Saji Cherian, on Wednesday, an official press release said, adding that the Chief Minister had expressed his consent to take part in the event.
The invitation was an acknowledgment of Tamil Nadu's role particularly that of Dravidar Kazhagam founder, Periyar E V Ramasamy, in making the then 603-day peaceful agitation that lasted till November 23, 1925, a success. The protest was against the prevention of backward class and scheduled caste persons from entering the roads leading to the Mahadevar temple and its precincts in Vaikom.
Both the Chief Ministers would pay floral tributes to the statue of Periyar, which was erected later on in Vaikom, and then salute the other heroes of the movement that ultimately led to the then Travancore kingdom opening the roads leading to temples for all people.
In March 1924, some top Congress leaders in Kerala had launched the agitation against the ban on entry into the roads. The protest was sparked by the prevention of T K Madhavan, a court clerk, from reaching the court situated in the Maharaja’s palace premises.
Since the Congress leaders were arrested and put in jail, Periyar, who was then the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, was called to spearhead the movement.
When Periyar reached Vaikom by boat, he was given a grand welcome by the Travancore Maharaja who knew the family of Periyar and had stayed in their house during his stopovers at Erode while travelling to New Delhi from Thiruvananthapuram by train. But after it came to light that Periyar had gone there to lead the agitation, he was arrested twice.
First time he was lodged in the Aruvikuthi jail and the second time in Pasupura prison. When he was undergoing the second term, the Travancore maharaj, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, passed away. The queen, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, who succeeded him, opened the roads leading to temples to people of all castes.
Since that Vaikom agitation went into the pages of history as a significant event that led to the subsequent official abolition of caste discrimination, Periyar's role is remembered even now, though he earned the sobriquet 'Vaikom Veerar' (hero of Vaikom) then itself.