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periyar burns constitutionOn November 26, 1957, Dravidar Kazhagam, the Dravidian movement led by Periyar, burned copies of the constitution in order to demand a law that would abolish the caste system. Three thousand comrades were sentenced to 6 months to 3 years in prison. Here are some historical notes to commemorate that day.

To this day, it is not uncommon to hear of 'War veterans who died unnamed' because their names are unknown. Similarly, there are many unnamed people who took part in Periyar's protest against constitution war for caste annihilation and endured months of imprisonment.

Some news from the history of the sacrifices of the volunteers donned in black shirts, who stood beside Periyar to burn the excerpts of Articles in Constitution on 3/11/1957 as a protest against the inclusion of Articles supporting caste:

  • When Thiruvarur Muthukrishnan was imprisoned, his wife took care of his shop and their children - but she suddenly succumbed to cholera. Muthukrishnan did not even ask for parole to pay his last respects to his wife. His mother-in-law, who had been caring for the boys and girls since his wife died, also died of cholera soon after. The bereaved children were raised by the families of those in the movement until Muthukrishnan returned home from prison. When comrade Muthukrishnan was released, he was brought in procession through the streets of Thiruvarur. People shed tears when they saw the warrior.
  • Periyasamy, a 16-year-old boy from Trichy Valadi, wearing a black shirt, attended the protest in which they burned copies of the constitution. The court sentenced the boy to two years in prison, at Thoothukudi Tattaparai Juvenile Prison. He was the only son of a poor mother. Due to the lack of material facilities, the mother could not go and see her son even once. The then Governor of Tamil Nadu, Bishnuram Medhi, who had come to visit the prison, was astonished to learn of the boy's struggle and asked through an interpreter. "I forgive and release you; Won't the law burn like this again?" The boy said: "If you send me out, I will burn it again." The astonished governor moved on, saying, "God bless you." Periyasamy had practically inedible food in prison, and his stomach was upset as he was unable to bear the summer heat. Even after he was tortured to the point of unconsciousness, he refused to come out on bail.
  • Comrade Manikkam from Trichy was sentenced to one-year imprisonment. He came to the protest within a single week of getting married. The young wife, who came to the jail to interview, burst into tears. "Don't come to the interview anymore," said Manikkam. The heartbroken young wife became mentally ill, fearing that her husband would abandon her. Manikkam was released a year later, and he lived with his wife, who had become completely mentally ill, with happy memories from only their first week of marriage. He passed away before his wife.
  • In Thiruvarur, the most prominent long-time Periyar volunteers were Sivasankaran and Muthukrishnan, close comrades of M.Karunanidhi. Both their wives fell ill at different times while they were in prison. Coming out on 'parole' was the thought stream of 'cowardice' that prevailed among the comrades of the party at the time. Both refused to ask for parole. Both wives died while in prison. "I didn't see her while she was alive; what am I going to do with the corpse?" they said. The two went to complete their assigned prison work while shedding tears. (Comrade Sivasankaran - was arrested in ‘MISA’ during the state of emergency in 1975 and was imprisoned in Trichy for one year)
  • The prison at that time was cruel. The idea of ​​prison reforms and the rights of prisoners had not yet materialized. The black-shirted comrades were all treated like criminals who had committed heinous crimes. Prison officials inhumanely gave jobs to these comrades who came to the prison for the cause of caste annihilation. Prison officials inhumanely gave these comrades who came to the prison for the cause of caste annihilation the work of gardening, dishwashing in the kitchen, and serving the officers.
  • Great affluent landowners Needamangalam A. Arumugam, Chidambaram K Krishnasami, Anaimalai Narasimhan were tortured to do chores like cleaning clothes in jail, washing dishes and mowing grass. Traders who were comfortable paying income tax at that time, such as Vellore Thirunavukarasu and Trichy Veerappa, were coerced into doing menial tasks for jail authorities, irrespective of their age.
  • Back then, there were no fans in prison. The combination of the cruel, scorching sun and the worm-infested porridge that caused stomach ulcers brought 13 comrades to the brink of death. Before serving their sentences, the prison administration released those 13 comrades to save themselves. Within a week they were dead.
  • Pattukottai Ramasamy and Manalmedu Vellaichamy from Thanjavur district were died in prion in the consecutive days. The news of death leaked out and created great tension. Pattukottai Ramasamy's body was buried inside the jail by the prison administration, without being handed over to his relative. Comrade Maniyamaiyar was enraged. She went to minister Bhaktavatsalam and asked, "We sent him alive, won't you even give us the body in return?" The body was then exhumed by the authorities and handed back to the family when it had already begun to decompose.
  • An emotional funeral procession was held in Trichy to carry the bodies of two members of the movement who sacrificed their lives for the eradication of caste. Many young people vowed to perform caste-denial marriages before the corpses. They did as they promised. Dravidar Kazhagam President K. Veeramani, Mannachanallur Arangarasan, Magudanchavadi Killi Valavan, D.D. Veerappa's son Janarthanam are examples. Periyar himself identified women for the men to marry. He also presided over and conducted marriages.
  • Five comrades died inside the prison. Within a month of their release, many comrades too passed away. Totally eighteen were killed in Periyar's movement’s struggle against caste oppression!
  • The burning of the constitution did not take place on the scale of a single town. Constitutions were burned in several places on the same day. According to the 'Viduthalai' newspaper, the event took place in Chennai - 35 places; North Arcot District - 30 places; South Arcot District - 26 places; Salem District - 41 places; Coimbatore District - 14 places; Ramanathapuram District - 4 places; Madurai District - 13 places; Nellai District - 8 places; Dharmapuri - 18 places; Chengalpattu - 9 places; Kanyakumari - 5 places; Tiruchirappalli - 107 places; Thanjavur - 161 places; Pondicherry - 6 places. Constitutions were even burned in Bangalore and Andhra Pradesh.
  • A new law was hastily introduced after Periyar announced protests in Tamil Nadu that those who burn the constitution would be imprisoned for three years.
  • Deeming the law as trivial, 10,000 comrades came forward to burn the constitution. More than 3000 were arrested.
  • These are revolutionary chapters in the history of caste annihilation.
  • On November 26, we will commemorate the sacrifices of the anti-caste activists and commit ourselves to carry out the anti-caste struggle!

Periyar was arrested in advance!

On November 25, 1957, Periyar was arrested in advance in Trichy before the protest. News published by 'Viduthalai' magazine:

The 15-day deadline given by Periyar for the abolition of caste ended on 18.11.57. The protest to burn the copies of the constitution on November 26 had been confirmed. On 26.11.57, comrades from all over the country lined up to burn the copies of the Constitution of India.

Periyar planned to arrive in Chennai by express train after concluding the Sirangam public meeting on 25.11.57 and speak at the Egmore Periyar ground in Chennai on November 26 and finally set fire to the constitution.

On the evening of 25.11.57, while Periyar was getting ready to leave his Puthur Palace for a public meeting in Srirangam, the Superintendent of the Trichy Police, Mr. S. Solayappan came and arrested Periyar at 6.40 pm under Section 151 of the Criminal Code. Then, magistrate Ramachandran ordered for Periyar to be taken away and remanded for three days. Periyar was lodged in the Trichy Central Jail. Periyar was remanded in custody for three days and then, released on condition.

In accordance with the decision of the Dravidar Kazhagam and Periyar's order, the first phase of the struggle for the abolition of caste, which began with the burning of copies of the constitution, took place across Tamil Nadu on 26.11.57. About 10 thousand people burned copies of the constitution from Chennai to Kanyakumari.

Written by Viduthalai Rajendran

Translated by Pulari

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