Doyen of so­cial jus­tice

Karunanidhi paid spe­cial at­ten­tion to trans­lat­ing the ide­ol­ogy of Peri­yar into re­al­ity, and his own con­tri­bu­tion to the cause of up­lift of the back­ward classes in Tamil Nadu is his­toric and in­deli­ble.

FrontLine - - COVER STORY -

MY AS­SO­CI­A­TION WITH KALAIG­NAR be­gan at Peri­yar gu­ruku­lam, Erode. We have moved to­gether for 73 years, wed­ded to the same ide­ol­ogy, our brother­hood grow­ing ev­ery day in spite of oc­ca­sional dif­fer­ences in ap­proach when the ex­change of ideas got prece­dence over the ex­change of pleas­antries, as we were both in­volved in the war against op­pres­sion.

In the 1967 gen­eral elec­tion, the Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK), which formed an al­liance of par­ties that op­posed the Congress, won and came to power in Tamil Nadu. Anna (as C.N. An­nadu­rai was en­dear­ingly called) the Chief Min­is­ter des­ig­nate, along with Navalar R. Ne­dunchezhiyan and Kalaig­nar, pro­ceeded to Trichy even be­fore tak­ing the oath of of­fice to pay re­spects to their ide­o­log­i­cal men­tor, Than­thai [E.V. Ra­masamy] Peri­yar. It was an emo­tional meet­ing af­ter 17 years of part­ing of ways with the Dravi­dar Kazhagam (DK) for hav­ing cho­sen the po­lit­i­cal path and formed the DMK. Dur­ing the his­toric meet­ing at Trichy, Anna sought Peri­yar’s “bless­ing” and sup­port for the DMK to rule the State. Peri­yar ex­plic­itly stated that the DK’S sup­port to the DMK de­pended on its func­tion­ing along the Dra­vid­ian ide­o­log­i­cal line. Anna promised him that he would act as per Peri­yar’s ide­o­log­i­cal wishes. Af­ter as­sum­ing power, on one oc­ca­sion, a ques­tion was raised on the floor of the Tamil Nadu State Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly as to whether the gov­ern­ment would hon­our Peri­yar for his role in the free­dom strug­gle. Anna aptly replied, “My Min­istry it­self is ded­i­cated to Peri­yar as a mark of re­spect and hon­our.”

Anna be­gan to im­ple­ment the prin­ci­ples of Peri­yar dur­ing his short span of al­most one-and-a-half years as Chief Min­is­ter. Anna le­galised the con­cept of self-re­spect mar­riages ad­vo­cated by Peri­yar, de­void of priests and ri­tu­als, through an ex­clu­sive en­act­ment. This Act recog­nised not only prospec­tive self-re­spect mar­riages but also mar­riages held in the past with ret­ro­spec­tive ef­fect.

Two other prom­i­nent achieve­ments of Anna as Chief Min­is­ter were nam­ing the Madras State as Tamil Nadu and es­tab­lish­ing the two-lan­guage ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy in the State. On the so­cial jus­tice front, a prin­ci­pled de­ci­sion was taken dur­ing Anna’s rule to form a com­mis­sion to up­lift the Back­ward Classes in the State. In the BY


mean­time, Anna passed away ow­ing to chronic ill­ness.

The goal of dis­pen­sa­tion of so­cial jus­tice is pos­si­ble only through reser­va­tion in ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic em­ploy­ment, giving ad­e­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the Sched­uled Castes, the Sched­uled Tribes and Other Back­ward Classes. Dis­pen­sa­tion of so­cial jus­tice con­tin­ues to be the core prin­ci­ple of the Dra­vid­ian move­ment, founded by South In­dian Lib­eral Fed­er­a­tion (SILF), pop­u­larly known as the Jus­tice Party. In 1928, the Com­mu­nal G.O. (gov­ern­ment or­der) came to be im­ple­mented by the in­de­pen­dent min­istry which had the sup­port of the Jus­tice Party. From then on­wards, the pro­por­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the un­der­priv­i­leged has been ris­ing to­wards ad­e­quacy. Peri­yar quit the Congress in 1925 on the is­sue of so­cial jus­tice and founded the Self-re­spect Move­ment and later, the DK.

Peri­yar’s wishes were trans­lated into ac­tion con­tin­u­ously by Kalaig­nar. When he be­came the Chief Min­is­ter af­ter Anna’s demise in 1969, reser­va­tion both in ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment in Tamil Nadu stood at 25 per cent for the Back­ward Classes (B.CS), 16 per cent for the Sched­uled Castes (S.CS) and the Sched­uled Tribes (S.TS), which was im­ple­mented dur­ing the regime of K. Ka­ma­raj as Chief Min­is­ter. The first Back­ward Class Com­mis­sion was ap­pointed by the DMK’S Chief Min­is­ter un­der the Chair­man­ship of A.N. Sat­tanathan in 1969. The Com­mis­sion sub­mit­ted its re­port rec­om­mend­ing ad­e­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the op­pressed sec­tions in the so­ci­ety. Tak­ing cog­ni­sance of an obiter dic­tum (pass­ing ref­er­ence) of the Supreme Court judg­ment in the Balaji case, which said the to­tal reser­va­tion was not to ex­ceed 50 per cent, Kalaig­nar raised the level of reser­va­tion for BCS from 25 per cent to 31 per cent and for S.CS and S.TS from 16 per cent to 18 per cent in 1971. Dur­ing the DMK rule (1971–1976), Kalaig­nar formed a sep­a­rate Min­istry for the Wel­fare of the Back­ward Classes, the first of its kind in In­dia.

Dur­ing the regime of M.G. Ra­machan­dran as All In­dia Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam’s Chief Min­is­ter in 1979, the State gov­ern­ment is­sued a G.O. su­per­im­pos­ing the eco­nomic cri­te­rion of a ceil­ing of an an­nual in­come of Rs.9,000, making B.C. fam­i­lies above this limit in­el­i­gi­ble to avail them­selves of reser­va­tion ben­e­fits.

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