Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)
1. “The Vaikom Satyagraha is a good example of the mutual relationship between the local and national movements during the liberation struggle.” Explain.
Vaikom Satyagraha was one of Kerala’s foremost organized agitations for the eradication of the shameful practices of untouchability and unapproachability. According to K N Panikkar, the humiliating treatments practised in the name of caste included observance of distance pollution, exclusion from public places of worship and denial of the civil rights enjoyed by upper castes. People who belonged to ‘lower castes’ had no access to public roads near temples, could not be appointed to government jobs, and their children could not be admitted to government schools. It was in this context that T K Madhavan, a prominent social reformer and journalist, considered rightly as the original architect behind Vaikom Satyagraha, moved a resolution in the Assembly in 1918 and while doing so claimed that “temple entry is my birthright.”
The Diwan rejected this appeal citing the reason that it may trigger religious disharmony in society. However, 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. After Gandhi’s appeal, several upper caste reform associations supported the cause. The Kerala Hindu Sabha, the Nair Service Society, the Yogakshema Sabha, etc are some of them. T K Madhavan then took steps to establish closer links with the national movement. He became a member of the Indian National Congress and participated in the Kakkinada Session of 1923 as a delegate to attract attention to the situation in Travancore. He eminently successes in this mission, as is evident from the invitation extended to him to attend the Working Committee of the Congress and to introduce a resolution providing for the formation of an all-India committee for the eradication of untouchability. T K Madhavan also became a member of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee.
The satyagraha aroused considerable enthusiasm at the local and the national level. Volunteers came from all over Kerala and the number of those who offered to participate in it was so large that the organisers had to make a public appeal to volunteers not to reach Vaikom without prior permission and a certificate of character from an important citizen. The satyagraha not only symbolized the struggle against untouchability and caste oppression but also the nationalist quest for emancipation from social and political bonds, for it was viewed as part of the struggle occurring at the national level. The Vaikom Satyagraha is a good example of the mutual relationship between the local and national movements during the liberation struggle.
REF: Multiple Modernities, edited by Board of Editors, Kannur University, Cohin: Hornbill Publishing House, 2019. Print.