Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)
3. “Vaikom Satyagraha saw the coming together of great personalities.” Explain.
T K Madhavan met Gandhi at Tirunelveli in 1923 to seek his advice and support for launching an agitation for temple entry. Gandhi approved of the agitation and suggested non-violence as the strategy. Gandhi also gave a message to the people of Travancore emphasizing the untouchable’s right to worship in Hindu temples.
The active involvement of Sree Narayana Guru served as a powerful source of inspiration and guidance for the satyagrahis. During March 1925, after his visit to the Satyagraha site, Gandhiji visited Sree Narayana Guru at Sivagiri. Gandhiji inquired Guru if he had any difference of opinion about the Satyagraha started at Vaikom. Gandhiji also asks him if he wants to add or alter anything to the movement. Sree Narayana Guru answers Gandhiji’s question by affirming that the satyagraha at Vaikon is going smoothly. Guru also affirms that he does not want to make any alterations. Gandhiji tells Sree Narayana Guru that some think that nonviolent satyagraha is of no use and to establish right, violence is necessary. He inquires Sree Narayana Guru’s opinion in this matter. Sree Narayana Guru answers by stating that he does not think that violence is good.
In pursuance of Gandhi’s advice, a savarna jatha was organized from Vaikom to Thiruvananthapuram under the leadership of Mannath Padmanabhan, the founder of the Nair Service Society. The declared purpose of the jatha was to present a memorial to the Maharani Regent but its intention was more to arouse public opinion, particularly among caste Hindus, against untouchability. The jatha, which started from Vaikom on 1 November 1924, stopped at about two hundred places on the way, where public receptions were organized and in which the leaders of the jatha denounced untouchability in strong terms.
The appeal of the satyagraha went beyond religious and regional parameters was evident in the participation. In addition to the Christians and Muslims who participated in the agitations, a party of twelve Akalis headed by Lala Lal Singh and Kripal Singh came to Vaikom and setup langar for the volunteers. E V Ramaswamy, popularly known as Periyar, came with his wife Nagammai and offered Satyagraha on the 14th of April. In the course of the agitations, Periyar was arrested and imprisoned twice which earned for him yet another sobriquet ‘Vaikom Veerar’.
Probably for the first time in India, women played an unprecedented part in the agitations with their large scale involvement and participation in the events. Narayani Amma, Meenakshi Amma, Thirumalai Amma, and Nagammai Amma were some of the leaders at the forefront of the satyagraha. Thus, Vaikom Satyagraha saw the coming together of great personalities.
REF: Multiple Modernities, edited by Board of Editors, Kannur University, Cohin: Hornbill Publishing House, 2019. Print.