Vaikom, a satyagraha, and the fight for social justice

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Source- The post is based on the article “India’s DPIs, catching the next wave” published in “The Hindu” on 30th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS1- Modern Indian history

Relevance– Social movements before independence

News– The article explains the Vaikom movement.

What are some facts about the Vaikom movement?

Vaikom was a temple street entry movement launched in 1924.

The purpose was to end the prohibition imposed on backward communities in using the roads around the Vaikom Mahadeva temple.

It was launched by leaders in Kerala such as T.K. Madhavan, K.P. Kesava Menon and George Joseph, on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi. The movement was sustained and successfully conducted by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy.

How the movement started and sustained with time?

The committee against untouchability launched the protest on March 30, 1924, when three persons from various communities were prevented from entering the temple streets.

The protest sustained itself for more than one and a half years, leading to many arrests and satyagrahis being jailed. Police started to arrest the leaders of the protest.

Their arrests created a vacuum as there was no leader to lead the protest. Then Periyar decided to lead the protest.

As a mark of appreciation, the editor of Tamil journal Navasakthi and scholar, Thiru. Vi. Kalyanasundaram, conferred the title Vaikom Veerar on Periyar.

What are some significant events related to movement?

The Vaikom movement consists of day­to­day protests, arrests, of inquiries, jail terms and agitations.

There was also the support of the higher castes for a 13-day march to the capital. A resolution was introduced in the Assembly in support of the free entry to the streets around the temple (Sanchara). But it was defeated.

Mahatma Gandhi arrived to negotiate between the government, protesters and orthodox Hindus. Since Mahatma Gandhi insisted that it should be a local protest, requests to make it a pan-­India movement failed.

The traditionalists caused many troubles for the satyagrahis. It included counter rallies marked by violence. The resolution for the right to sanchara was defeated in the Assembly by the open support of the traditionalists. They were backed by the government and the administration.

Tamil Nadu played a pivotal role in Vaikom Satyagraha. Periyar and Kovai Ayyamuthu, a firebrand leader, worked in tandem with leaders in Kerala. But they faced repressive action.

How does the movement end?

The movement ended on November 23, 1925. The 19 leaders, including Periyar, Kesava Menon and T.K. Madhavan, was released on August 30, 1924.

The rally by the upper castes that began on November 1, reached Trivandrum on November 13, submitting its memorandum to the Queen regent.

Mahatma Gandhi held talks with the Queen of Travancore, social reformer Narayana Guru, traditionalists and police commissioner W.H. Pitt.

On November 17, the satyagrahis announced their decision to withdraw their protest. On November 23, the government of the Travancore princely state declared that people could enter three of the four streets around Vaikom temple.


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