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Today’s Dalit History month post is on the Adi-movements of the 1920’s. For Dalit history, ‘Adi’ ideologies are highly significant as they bear testament to our earliest assertion of equal rights, humanity and citizenship on level with other castes.
By the late 19th century, leaders like the social reformer Jyotirao Phule, had created a powerful anti-caste space, upholding non-Brahmanical thought and presenting the dream of a new egalitarian value system on which to model society on. Soon after, the early 20th century saw several archaeological discoveries being made in Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the North, pointing to the existence of an unexpectedly ancient civilization that was likely much older than Aryan migrations. These discoveries struck a profound chord with Dalits all over the subcontinent, who immediately began to identify as an indigenous population who were conquered and subsequently oppressed by an alien religion. Although, the evidence for Aryan conquests remains contested, these interpretation was so compelling that such “Adi” (Ancient/Old/Original) movements sprung up all over the nation completely independently of each other.
The names of these movements are telling – Ad-Dharm in Punjab, Adi-Hindu in U.P. and Hyderabad, Adi-Dravida, Adi-Andhra and Adi-Karnataka in South India – all indicating a common claim to nativity and original inhabitation.
The provocative effects of the Adi-movements are best illustrated by an early Maharashtrian pre-Ambedkar Dalit leader, Kisan Faguji Bansode, who warned his caste-Hindu friends in 1909, stating: “The Aryans – your ancestors – conquered us and gave us unbearable harassment. At that time we were your conquest, you treated us worse than slaves and subjected us to any torture you wanted. But now we are no longer your subjects, we have no service relationship with you, we are not your slaves or serfs… We have had enough of the harassment and torture of the Hindus.”
Communal representation is the accredited right of every nation and its government. It is the common right of all citizens belonging to every community. The main motive of the principle of communal representation is to eradicate the unequal status amongst the citizens. Communal representation is a ‘boon’ to create a society of equals. When there are communities which are forward and progressive; hampering the well being of all the other communities; there is no other go but to resort to the system of communal representation. It is by this way the suffering communities could begin to heave a sigh of relief. The need for the prolongation of the system of communal representation will automatically cease and it will be found absolutely unnecessary to continue the policy any longer, when all the communities are made as equals.
Excepting the Bráhmin community all other communities started to demand for communal representation soon after the talk of representation of Indians in governance began. For a long time, except the Brahmin community all other communities carried on agitation urging the government to implement the policy of communal representation.
The Brahmins, particularly the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu stooped to many ways to put hurdles and create obstacles against the implementation of the policy of communal representation. They pursued trickish methods and conspired many times against the communal representation policy which was a boon to all downtrodden communities.
Read also – Periyar linked caste to religion
One could understand the Brahmins opposing the communal representation policy, if at all they had openly come forward to list out the evils of uplifting the down trodden people. All those who oppose simply said ‘no’, and no one explained why? So far no one has clearly listed out the reasons for opposing the policy of reservation. What is wrong in making all people as equals? What is wrong in giving equal opportunities for all? If there is nothing wrong in creating a socialist society, and if it is undeniable that the present society composed of unequal should be made progressive; what else can be done without creating reservations based on population through the communal representation policy. Could it be denied that there are weaker section in the society?
Moreover, when we have allowed the classification of the society based on religion, caste and community; we cannot stand in the way of the people demanding special rights, based on religion, caste, and community. There is nothing wrong on their part or of any community in safeguarding their interests. I don’t see anything dishonest in that.
The casteism made the people go backward. Castes spell more and more ruination. Castes have made us low and have-nots. Till all these evils are eradicated and everyone attains an equal status in life, the proportional representation policy based ‘on population is indispensable. Many communities have entered the field of education only recently. All should be enabled to read and attain a civilised stage. Our people should take to education and read well. Our people should get their due share in the public services and in all other fields according to their percentage in the total population.
In this country out of 100 people only three are brahmins. Sixteen percent of the population are Adi-dravidas. 72 perent of the population are non brahmins. Should not the jobs be given to all in proportion to the population?
(Source : Collected works of Periyar E.V.R. Pg. 165-166)