Is Ambedkar more acceptable than other icons like Periyar?
Accepting Ambedkar and vilifying Periyar is the Brahminical way of seeing things. In fact, both Ambedkar and Periyar severely criticised Hinduism.
If people find it easier to accept Ambedkar today, it only means that Periyar had indeed criticised Hindutva more severely than Ambedkar.
When Ambedkar wanted to move to Buddhism, it was Periyar who advised him not to go in small numbers. When Ambedkar advised Periyar to convert too, Periyar said he needed to be inside the Hindu religion in order to criticise it. He was cautious that conversion might backfire on him, which might lead to the suppression of minorities and lower caste people.
Periyar and Ambedkar are two sides of the same coin. When Ambedkar came to Chennai, a bureaucrat asked him: “How should we live?” Ambedkar replied: “My ideology has been preached by Periyar too. There is no difference.”
Ambedkar and Periyar were from different geographies, but they were united in ideology. They are very relevant to the current political scenario.
Read other perspectives on Ambedkar:
There is an absolute need for revisiting their thoughts, especially amid the rise of RSS-BJP Hindutva majoritarianism. This ideology stands against the principle of social justice that these great men strived for.
The Constitution says that India is secular, but only one religion is made to dominate the entire country, and minorities and caste communities at the bottom of the pyramid are badly affected.
Student communities in JNU, BHU, IIT(B), HCU are actively involved in celebrating Ambedkar and Periyar. Internet and social media have helped in taking these icons and their ideas to many people around the world.
Periyar was the first one to translate and publish contents from Ambedkar’s book ‘Annihilation of Caste’ in 1936. Periyar went to Bombay to preside over an event featuring Ambedkar, and Ambedkar remembers this as his proudest moment of his lifetime.
We (Dravida Kazhagam) celebrated the centenary of Ambedkar, and even VCK (Viduthalai Siruthai Katchi – a Tamil Nadu Dalit welfare party) founder Thol. Thirumavalavan once said that he got introduced to and understood Ambedkar through Periyar’s work.
As Periyar-ists, we do not belittle Ambedkar in any way.
Kali Poongundran, Executive Editor of Viduthalai, Tamil newspaper founded by Periyar