Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid tributes to Mahatma Ayyankali on his Jayanti. India remains indebted to greats like Mahatma Ayyankali. His work towards social reform and empowering the downtrodden will always inspire. Remembering him on his Jayanti.
Who is Mahatma Ayyankali?
- Ayyankali is a firebrand Dalit leader.
- He was born on August 28, 1863 at Venganoor, which is now in Thiruvananthapuram district. The caste discrimination he faced as a child turned him into a leader of an anti-caste movement and who later fought for basic rights including access to public spaces and entry to schools.
- Ayyankali in 1893 rode an ox-cart challenging the ‘ban‘ on untouchables from accessing public roads by caste-Hindus. This is celebrated as one of the major achievements in the history of Dalit movements in Kerala.
- He also led a rally to assert the rights of ‘untouchables’ at Balaramapuram. An ‘upper caste’ mob attacked them and a fight broke out. The walk Ayyankali took came to be known as ‘walk for freedom‘ and the consequent riots as ‘Chaliyar riots’.
- Though Pulayars gained the right to access roads, temples and schools were still inaccessible. Ayyankali had a three-level solution for this. First, to ask the government for help, second to fight with upper caste landlords and third – to start own schools. All three were enabled which partially helped them to realise their dream.
- On March 1, 1910, just 44 years before Kerala state was born, the Travancore government ordered that Pulaya children be admitted to ‘all schools which Ezhava (a numerically dominant caste in Kerala which currently comes in the OBC list) children have access’.
- Inspired by Sree Narayana Guru, a social reformer from Ezhava caste, Ayyankali started Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (association for the protection of the poor) which later raised funds to start their own schools.