Friday, 15 April 2016

Leaders of Renaissance in Kerala -Ayyankali (1863–1941) (Chapter-1)

Leaders of Renaissance in Kerala
-Ayyankali (1863–1941)
1. Ayyankali (1863–1941) was a leader of the lower caste Dalits known as the Untouchables.

2. He pioneered many reforms to improve the lives of the Dalits.

3. Ayyankali was born in 1863 in Venganoor, Trivandrum.

4. He was one of seven children born to Ayyan and Mala, members of Pulaya community. He was illiterate as were all Dalits at that time.

5. In those days Dalits were not allowed to walk along public roads. The Dalit women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places.

6. Ayyankali organized Dalits and fought against these discriminations. He was in the forefront of movements against casteism.

7. He passed through the public roads of Venganoor (1893) on a bullock cart which was not allowed for the Dalits. Enraged by his boldness, the caste Hindus physically attacked him. Ayyankali led the movement and defeated them.

8. Ayyankali demanded right for Dalit children to study in school, which was not granted.

9. He started a school (1905) to teach dalit children at Venganoor which was set ablaze by caste Hindus.

10. In response to this, in 1907 he led a strike of agricultural labourers at Venganoor which lasted for more than a year.

11. He called for boycott of agricultural work raising certain demands. His demands included (a) stoppage of the practice of not giving tea in tea shops to Dalits who were given tea till then in coconut shells; (b) right to education for the Dalit children; (c) resting time for workers during work hours; and (d) replacement of the system of wages in kind by payment of cash.

12. Initially the land lords did not take it seriously. They tried many means and methods to defeat the workers.

13. However they realized that their families would starve to death if Ayyankali’s demands were not met with. They, therefore, were forced to concede the demands of Ayyankali and his supporters.

14. The significance of Ayyankali lies in the fact that he could spearhead a struggle for human rights of the untouchables raising demands which find expressions in various international human rights documents well before their adoption.

15. Ayyankali pioneered a movement for democratizing public places and asserting the rights of workers even before the formation of any workers organisation in Kerala. The most amazing part of it is that he did all this in spite of his illiteracy.

16. In 1907 Ayyankali established Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham in the lines of SNDP Yogam.

17. Many branches of the organisation was established in the length and breadth of Travancore and the members actively involved in the upliftment programmes of the downtrodden. Within three years land was bought at Venganur for the organisation.

18. Then they decided to fight to secure educational rights that had been granted to the members of Ezhava community.

19. Ayyankali was later nominated to the Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly, in 1910 by the then rulers in recognition of his leadership ability.

20. He was the first member from the dalit community to become a member in Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly.
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