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The Justice Party was established on November 20, 1916 in Victoria Memorial Hall in Madras by Dr C. Natesa Mudaliar and co-founded by T. M. Nair and P. Theagaraya Chetty as a result of a series of non-Brahmin conferences and meetings in the presidency. In 1920, it won the first direct elections in the Madras presidency and formed the government. For the next seventeen years, it formed four out of the five ministries and was in power for thirteen years (1920-1926 & 1930-1937). After it lost to the Congress in the 1937 election, it came under the leadership of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and his Self-Respect Movement. In 1944, Periyar transformed the Justice Party into the social organisation Dravidar Kazhagam and withdrew it from electoral politics.

This article details the schemes and activities undertaken during the Justice Party regime for the education, employment and social advancement of the Adi Dravidas (Dalits).

justice party leadersDuring Justice party regime, M.C Rajah brought a resolution in the legislature on 20.02.1922 that called for derogatory terms like Pallar and Pariah to be changed and for his community to be called by the name ‘Adi Dravidas’ henceforth. That resolution was passed unanimously. On that basis, Government Order (hereafter G.O) no. 217 law (common) was issued on 25.03.1922 that ordered for this community to be recorded as Adi Dravidas in all documents.

A government order was issued to enroll Adi Dravida children in public schools mandatorily. (G.O. No. 87 school day 6.1.1923).

A government order was issued that if government-aided schools refused to admit Adi Dravida children, their funding would be terminated. (G.O. No. 88 school day 16.1.1923.)

The government refused to accept the request made by the Trichy District Board for permission to make Adi Dravida children stay in a separate place and study, instead issuing an order that Adi Dravida children should be made to study together with children from other castes. (G.O. No. 2015 school day 11.2.1924.)

Keeping in mind the question of whether Adi Dravida children can access primary schools even while beginning construction, a government order was issued for school buildings to be built in places that Adi Dravida children could access freely without barriers; this was based on the fact that members of other castes would refuse to permit Adi Dravida children to enter places like the temple or the agrahara. (G.O. No. 2333 27.11.1922)

A free residential hostel for Adi Dravida students was opened for the first time in India (G.O. No. 2563 on 24.10.1923). The total amount for building this hostel was given to the Adi Dravida leader M.C. Rajah, who was himself in charge of the project.

Within 1931, three hostels were established for Adi Dravida students. (G.T. Boag ICS, The Madras Presidency 1881-1931, page 132)

A government order was issued to provide free pattas to Adi Dravidas for their residential lands. (G.O. No. 1243, 5.7.1922)

A government order was issued making it unnecessary for Adi Dravida students to pay exam fees to take the SSLC exam. (G.O. No. 1241 law (school) day, 17.10.1922)

A government order was issued that details about the education status of Adi Dravida students was to be provided to the government. (G.O. No. 859, 22.06.1923)

A government order was issued to provide students belonging to the Adi Dravida community with an education stipend from class 4 onwards. (G.O. No. 1568 law (school) day 06.11.1923)

Condemning the fact that some schools had separate classrooms for Adi Dravida students, the government issued an order pledging greater financial aid to schools that admitted Adi Dravida students in large numbers. (G.O. No. 205 school day 11.02.1924)

A government order was issued to provide an education stipend to students from the Adi Dravida community and other backward communities studying in medical colleges. (G.O. No. 866 (common) health day 17.06.1922)

In Chidambaram, Swami Sagajanandham started a school for Adi Dravida children in 1916. He asked the British government for land. They didn’t provide land for this. Therefore, he started conducting a kind of school on his porch itself. Panagal Raja of Justice Party was the one who provided 50 acres of land and increased its quality by making it into a middle school, providing recognition for the same along with ensuring that the school received regular financial aid from the government every year.

In Chennai, L.C. Gurusami started five schools for Arundhathiyars. Four of these were night schools. One was a day school. Panagal Raja made L.C. Gurusami the supervisor and continued giving the government’s financial aid for all the five schools to L.C. Gurusami himself.

It was during Panagal Raja’s time that 3 Adi Dravida students won a place in medical colleges on the basis of reservations. In the same way, Adi Dravida students got seats in engineering, agricultural and veterinary colleges. He also created opportunities for Adi Dravidas in various other government jobs. In the issue of ensuring the wellbeing of Adi Dravidas, he can only be compared to himself. This was another reason why Periyar was attracted to Panagal Raja.

The Justice Party provided panchami lands to Adi Dravidas at a level unheard of in any other province in India during its rule. Till the Justice Party came to power, in 1920-21 the Adi Dravidas were only given 19251 acres of panchami lands. But during the Justice Party’s rule until 1931, 342611 acres of panchami lands were given. (Source for this information is page number 132 of the book titled The Madras Presidency 1881-1931 written by the provincial government’s statistics official G.T. Boag ICS.) Moreover, the Justice newspaper has pointed out how the amount of panchami lands provided to the Adi Dravidas till March 31, 1935 has increased to 440000 acres in its 19.7.1935 issue.

The local administrations were themselves in charge of important portfolios like health, education and public works during that time. Justice Party was the one which appointed members of the Adi Dravida community in these posts and gave them a share in power. Below are the details of Adi Dravida representation in the local administration of Chennai province:

1920-21

Total number of posts

Posts to which Adi Dravidas were appointed

District Boards

25

17

Taluk Boards

125

66

Municipalities

79

46

1924-25

Total number of posts

Posts to which Adi Dravidas were appointed

District Boards

24

20

Taluk Boards

126

72

Municipalities

80

61

1928-29

Total number of posts

Posts to which Adi Dravidas were appointed

District Boards

25

25

Taluk Boards

129

128

Municipalities

81

81

(Source: The Madras Presidency 1881-1931, G.T.Boag ICS, page 134)

Within 1928, the Adi Dravidas secured 100% appointments in the local administration.

Number of members in the legislative assembly who were from the Depressed Classes in 1928 in the whole of India by province:

Sl.No.

Province

Number of members

from the Depressed Classes

1

Madras

10

2

Bombay

2

3

Bengal

1

4

United Province

1

5

Punjab

-

6

Bihar

2

7

Central Province

4

8

Assam

-

9

Burma

-

(Source: M.C Rajah Vaazhkai Varalaaru Ezhuthum Pechum, J. Sivashanmugam Pillai, page 35-36)

British ruled throughout India. But it was only in the Madras province that 10 people from the Depressed Classes were nominated to the legislative council. Before the Government of India Act, 1935, members of the Depressed Classes held positions only through nomination. The members of the legislature in Delhi then were called Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA). The first member of the Depressed Classes who was selected through the Chennai legislative council and sent to the Delhi legislature was M.C. Rajah. This happened only during the rule of Dr. Subbarayan who was backed by the Justice Party. He took efforts to organize the Depressed Classes at the national level only because he went to Delhi.

Accepting the resolutions brought in the Madras Legislative Council by Irattaimalai Srinivasan on 22.08.1924 to punish those who voice opposition to the movement of Adi Dravidas in common places, and Veerayyan on 24.02.1925, a government order was issued by the Justice Party declaring that those who opposed the entry of Adi Dravidas into common places like common roads, common wells, government offices and lodges would be liable to a fine of Rs. 100 (Gazette notification 08.04.1925 Part IV). This order was announced to people throughout the Madras province through beating the thandora, in addition to being published in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. In this manner, the Justice Party paved the way for removing the social barriers faced by the Adi Dravidas.

From 1927 itself, the members of the self-respect movement and the Justice Party fought for the rights of Adi Dravidas by taking them inside various temples. (For more, see Valasa Vallavan’s The Contribution of Dravidian Movements to Temple Entry Protests).

Justice Party rule ensured opportunities for the Depressed Classes and other non- Brahmin communities in government jobs.

The first government order (G.O. No. 613) passed providing for proportional representation was published on 16.09.1921.

The second government order ensuring reservation (G.O. No. 652) was issued on 15.08.1922. It was ordered that department heads and higher- level officials in the administration should confirm once in six months that reservation was being followed in job placements.

Despite the orders for reservation being passed in 1921-22, Brahmins disrupted its execution by filing a case in the Madras High Court.

In 1924, a commission was formed to place employees in government jobs. It was called the Staff Selection Board. This is what has transformed into T.N.P.S.C in its current avatar. From 1925, the details of government employees by community started getting published in the annual government reports. During Panagal Raja’s rule, in 1926- 27, 382 Adi Dravidas were placed as constables, 20 Adi Dravidas were placed as head constables, and one person was placed in the post of Sub-Inspector. Only in 1927 was a person belonging to the Adi Dravida community selected as an inspector. (Staff Selection Board report page 120). In 1935, Adi Dravidas were promoted up till the post of Assistant superintendent. M.C. Rajah has written in the report he sent to the Central Government in 1928 that during that time, no state in India even accepted Adi Dravidas as constables in the Police Department. (M.C Rajah Vaazhkai Varalaaru Ezhuthum Pechum, J. Sivashanmugam Pillai, page 42)

According to the resolution brought by C. Natesa Mudhaliyar in the legislative council on 7.2.1925, seats in the Staff Selection Board were divided as follows. Non- Brahmins and Adi Dravidas were therefore able to go for government jobs.

  1. Non Brahmin Hindus- 40
  2. Brahmins- 20
  3. Muslims- 20
  4. Anglo Indians/ Indian Christians- 10
  5. Adi Dravidas- 10

(Source: Madras Legislative Council debate records 27.8.1927 page 469)

In 1930, W.P.A. Soundarapandiyan of Justice Party, head of the District Board of Ramanathapuram sent an order to bus owners. He ordered that if their buses refused to admit Adi Dravidas, the respective bus permits would be terminated. During that time, a Brahmin called Subramaniam was an owner of the buses in that district. It is notable that he had printed in the bus tickets itself that Adi Dravidas would not be allowed in buses.

During the Justice Party’s rule, Dr. Subbarayan from the Opposition introduced a bill on temple entry for the Adi Dravidas on 2.11.32. Periyar backed the bill even before it was filed in the legislature, and wrote an editorial in the Kudiyarasu newspaper about it. In it, he asked the members of the Justice Party to also support the bill. “For the members of the Justice Party, the principle of social reform is the fundamental concern. They have been in support of equal rights with regard to temple entry for all communities for many years. Therefore, we surely believe that they won’t oppose this good Bill only because of the petty reason that it was tabled by the leaders of the Opposition. We warn them that it will be most disgusting if the members of the Justice Party chose to remain neutral or oppose the Bill instead of supporting it, because of differences in the political ideologies of Dr. Subbrayan’s party and our party, or because of the revengeful ideology that it is our duty to oppose any good Bill the Opposition brings about.” (Kudiyarasu 30.10.1932)

On behalf of the Justice Party, Dr Natesa Mudhaliyar spoke in support of the Bill. After Irattaimalai Srinivasan and N. Sivaraj also spoke, voting on the Bill took place. 56 people voted in support; 19 people remained neutral. The Bill was passed without any opposition. But Brahmins, using their influence with the governor, barred this Bill from becoming law.

Through cooperatives, large amounts of money were provided as loans to the Adi Dravidas. On 31.10.1931, in the legislature, Ranganatha Mudhaliyar raised a question as to how much money was given as loans to the Adi Dravidas through cooperatives and how much of that was recovered. The government’s reply to that was as follows:

Years

Amount loaned

Amount repaid

1921-22

104543

73728

1922-23

140340

87886

1923-24

93005

63413

1924-25

429465

189732

Years

Amount loaned

Amount repaid

1925-26

207542

76748

1926-27

553283

130098

1927-28

51252

60180

1928-29

49377

121897

1929-30

63068

52589

(Source: Madras Legislative Council Debate Records, vol. LVIII, page 268)

Through the law on compulsory education for all (G.O. No. 376 law (school) day 9.3.1923), importance was given to primary education. Before the Justice Party came to power, the Education Department spent a lot of money on higher education alone. Brahmins were the ones who greatly benefited from this. In Justice Party conferences, it was urged that this state of affairs should be changed and that a large amount of funds should be spent on primary education. After coming to power, they executed this in practice as well. The details of funds that were being provided to local administrative bodies for primary education:

Year

Amount

1920-21

3479134

1921-22

3037641

1922-23

4172787

1923-24

4451359

1924-25

4943065

1925- 26

5537396

(Source: Madras Legislative Council Debate Records, page 407, 27.8.1927)

It is to be noted that local administrative bodies were in charge of primary education during those times.

On 28.7.1929, K.V.A Sami asked a question in the legislature: how many new primary schools were started in between the years 1921 and 1928? The reply given from the government’s side was 19095 schools.

Statistics regarding the community-wise details of government employees that was published in the government’s annual administrative report of the Madras government in 1925-26:

Govt. Employees – caste wise

Sl.No.

Community/

group

Gazetted posts

Non-gazetted posts

Above 100 rupees

Above 35 rupees

Below 35 rupees

1

Brahmins

402

3403

8917

928

2

Non- Brahmins

215

1901

5238

29357

3

Adi Dravidas

-

2

54

1175

4

Muslims

53

323

1139

9445

5

Anglo- Indians

408

456

106

38

6

Indian Christians

102

456

643

1888

7

Others

16

2

17

412

(Source: Madras provincial government’s annual report, 1925-26, page 201)

Govt. Employees – caste wise in 1935

Sl.No.

Community/

group

Gazetted posts

Non-gazetted posts

Above 100 rupees

Above 35 rupees

Below 35 rupees

1

Brahmins

656

3935

9827

1400

2

Non- Brahmins

361

2506

8455

35769

3

Adi Dravidas

6

27

111

1870

4

Muslims

101

404

1821

10556

5

Anglo- Indians

392

474

522

22

6

Indian Christians

10

760

1551

2648

7

Others

-

9

26

154

(Source: The government’s annual report published on 1.04.1935, page 207)

If we compare these two statistics, we can see that the number of non- Brahmins and Adi Dravidas in government posts has slightly increased.

A community- wise rotation method was introduced in 1928 through an order issued by Muthaiah Muralidhar.

1

Non- Brahmin Hindus

5

44%

2

Brahmins

2

16%

3

Muslims

2

16%

4

Europeans/ Anglo- Indians

2

16%

5

Adi Dravidas

1

8%

 

Total

12

100%

These 12 seats were filled on a rotational basis:

  1. Non- Brahmin Hindus
  2. Muslims
  3. Non- Brahmin Hindus
  4. Anglo Indians/Indian Christians
  5. Brahmins
  6. Non- Brahmin Hindus
  7. Adi Dravidas
  8. Non- Brahmin Hindus
  9. Muslims
  10. Non- Brahmin Hindus
  11. Anglo Indians/Indian Christians
  12. Brahmins

The posts were filled on the basis of this list. Adi Dravidas were allotted a low number of seats only because there were very few educated members among them.

After coming to power, the Justice Party took efforts to reduce the domination of Brahmins in higher education. A ‘College Students Admission Committee’ was created in all colleges, including arts and science, engineering, medical, agricultural and law colleges. This committee was constituted by the President of the college, an academic associated with the Justice Party who possessed knowledge of that specific department, and the Director/Secretary of that department. These committees had been ordered to not admit Brahmins for more than 50% of the seats. (G.O. No. 536 school day 20.05.1922)

In 1922, Dr. Natesa Mudhaliyar was part of the Students Admission Committee for the Madras State College. The total number of seats was 242. 167 Brahmin students had applied. On the basis of the 50% rule, only 121 of them were admitted into the college. They refused to admit the remaining 46 Brahmin students (Madras Mail, 21.7.1922). It was only in the Justice Party’s time that for the first time in Indian history, the social revolution of refusing to admit Brahmin students because there were no seats for them, took place.

On 7.12.1921, C. Natesa Mudhaliyar asked that medical college admissions data be shown on the basis of group/community. S. Srinivasa Iyengar raised the same question on 18.9.22. Answers were provided to both their questions in the legislature on the same day they raised them. I have attached both here for comparison.

Sl.No.

Number of students admitted into medical colleges

1921

1922

1

Brahmins

58

33

2

Non- Brahmin Hindus

15

36

3

Indian Christians

9

15

4

Anglo Indians

6

2

 

Total

88

91

We can see the drastic changes in medical college admissions in the one year between 1921 and 1922. The number of Brahmin students which was 58 in 1921 reduced to 33 in 1922. On the other hand, we can see that the number of non- Brahmin students has doubled from 15 in 1921 to 36 in 1922. This was a good result possible because of the College Students Admission Committee.

During the British rule in India, the British opened universities in Chennai, Mumbai and Calcutta in 1857 to create educated Indians who will work for them. These universities were operating under the Indian Universities Act.

From 1921, Madras University was refusing to follow the community/group wise student admission system. Therefore, the Justice Party government introduced the Madras University Law Bill in the legislature in 1923; the bill was passed, and the university was brought under the control of the provincial government. The education minister occupied a post that was above that of the Vice- Chancellor and equivalent to the Chancellor according to the law.

He doubled the number of members in the university senate. Many members of the Justice Party, including Natesa Mudhaliyar were appointed as senate members. It was only after this that the Brahmin domination in the senate was removed.

With the implicit goal that only Brahmins should study in higher education institutions, there was a system that made it impossible to get degrees in any language including Tamil without studying Sanskrit as a subject. Parasuram Pathrov, who was the education minister in 1924, announced in the legislature itself that this is a Dravidian government and this government’s money would only be spent on Dravidian languages; not stopping at that, he issued a government order to that effect (G.O. No. 2123 law, (school) day 08.12.1925). It was only after this that in a senate meeting in 1925, a situation ensued that made it possible to get ‘Tamil Pandit’ degree without studying Sanskrit. From 1926, it became possible for a Tamil student to study only Tamil and be eligible for a ‘Tamil Pandit’ degree later. From 1927, it was possible to study B.Lit without studying Sanskrit.

The Justice Party rule was the one that freed the Tamil language itself from Sanskrit.

In 1906, the British government set aside funds for putting together a Tamil lexicon to ensure that those who studied ICS in England and came to work in Tamil Nadu had sufficient knowledge of the language. Only the money got spent; no work happened towards this regard. After 1921, the Panagal Raja came up with a plan and set aside funds for the same; the first Tamil lexicon came out in 1922. Before the end of Justice Party rule, the seventh volume of the Tamil lexicon came out in 1936. They didn’t create a similar lexicon for Telugu; it was only done for Tamil.

When the Justice Party was formed, Brahmins were dominating politics under the name of the Congress. Brahmins were only mostly selected to the Governor Council and the Governor General Council. If an election happened in this situation, only the Brahmins would win. Feeling that it would be difficult for non- Brahmins to progress in such circumstances, the Justice Party sent their head T.M. Nair to London twice and got separate constituencies for the non- Brahmins to contest elections from.

The first government order came out under the name of Non- Brahmin Reserved Seat (MRO Public (Reforms) G.O. 335A May 25, 1920). The Brahmins made demands to the British government, saying that it should not be called non- Brahmins and made them change it to ‘non- Muslim constituency’ within a month. According to the Minto- Morley Reforms, Muslims were provided a reservation of 25% in government jobs from 1909 itself; on the same basis, they were already provided with reserved constituencies in elections.

On 4.7.1921, Krishnan Nayar from the Justice Party brought a resolution asking for voting rights for women in the Madras Legislative Council. 44 people supported it; 13 people voted in opposition. The governor refused to make it into law immediately. Women got voting rights only from 1926. That is why Muthulakshmi Reddy was nominated to the legislature in 1927. She was also selected as the deputy speaker. Muthulakshmi Reddy used this opportunity to put forth the Devadasi Abolition Bill. Without belief in the members of the Justice Party, she had prepared this Bill by giving it to C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar. It was passed on 1.12.1929 and became law. But there was a loophole in the law: it allowed for women above 18 years of age to become devadasis if they themselves wished to do so.

On 9.10.1947, Dr. Subbarayan who was a minister in the Omandur Ramasamy government brought a Devadasi Abolition Bill that slapped a fine of Rs.500 along with 6 months in jail for those that forced women to become devadasis, abolishing the system completely.

The self- respect movement and the Justice Party contributed a lot towards the progress of women. They started women’s teacher training institutes for women to be able to become teachers. In 1928, The Indian Government sent a committee headed by Hunter throughout India to analyse the state of women’s progress in the country. That committee, in its report, appreciated the special arrangements made for women in the Madras province.

It is notable that girls were provided free education until SSLC. In this manner, the Justice Party government worked hard to ensure the freedom and progress of oppressed people in society. History shows us that there wasn’t a government that was as good in any other province in India during that time.

Written by Valasa Vallavan (published on 05, Nov 2015 in keetru.com)

Translated by Alagammai


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