22 June, 2021

The Inner Grammar Of Dissent Lives

A century failed to give us any Dalit Tamil CM, sustain a single Dalit ­academic institution, or bring Dalit castes into the Dravidian fold

Buddha Road
Ambedkar with Periyar in Rangoon, 1954
The Inner Grammar Of Dissent Lives

The Dravidian movement is popularly characterised as the south Indian, non-Brahmin revolt against the social systems imposed by Brahminical Hinduism, mainly in the erstwhile Madras state. It is getting a serious relook in the contemporary context, being critically analysed by scholars and commentators, while its champions are preparing to celebrate the movement’s centenary—taking the release of the Non-Brahmin manifesto issued by Thegarayar in December 1916 as the formal beginning. A similar movement for liberation from exploitative Brahminism was initiated earlier by Jyotiba Phule in Maharashtra and sustained by Shahu Maharaj—leading up to the decisive revolt by Babasaheb Ambedkar in later years. The Dravidian movement, as it was espoused, was mainly a Tamil country movement and was an all-inclusive revolt against all forms of social and religious oppression and a move towards socialism and equality.

One way to evaluate this history is via the Dalit perspective—vis-à-vis the presence or absence of Dalits in the movement—since its...

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