Vaikom Satyagraha

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    In Context

    • As the year 2024 marks the centenary of the Vaikom Satyagraha, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin is to jointly inaugurate the centenary celebrations, during a function to be held at Vaikom on April 1, 2023.

    What is Vaikom Satyagraha?

    • The Vaikom Satyagraha 30th March 1924 was a satyagraha (movement) in Travancore, India (now part of Kerala) against untouchability in Hindu society. The movement was centered at the Shiva temple at Vaikom, near Kottayam. 
      • Vaikom is situated on the western side of Kottayam district in the Indian state of Kerala. It shares its border with Vembanad Lake.
      • Its importance in Indian history is due to the Vaikom Satyagraha against untouchability, in which Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar Ramasamy participated.
    • The Satyagraha aimed at securing freedom of movement for all sections of society through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadevar Temple at Vaikom.

    Background

    • According to the prevalent caste system in Kerala and the rest of India, low-caste Hindus were not allowed to enter into the temples.
    • In Kerala, they were not even allowed to walk on the roads that led to the temples also. (Kerala state was formed in 1956; earlier it was broadly divided into Malabar (North Kerala), Cochin and Travancore kingdoms).
    • In the Kakinada meet of the Congress Party in 1923, T K Madhavan presented a report citing the discrimination that the depressed castes’ people were facing in Kerala. It was after this session that movements against untouchability need to be promoted.In Kerala, a committee was formed comprising people of different castes to fight untouchability.
    • The committee was chaired by K Kelappan, composed of T K Madhavan, Velayudha Menon, K Neelakantan Namboothiri and T R Krishnaswami Iyer.
    • In February 1924, they decided to launch a ‘Keralaparyatanam’ in order to get temple entry and also the right to use public roads for every Hindu irrespective of caste or creed.

    Organised struggle

    • It is considered as the first-ever organised struggle in Kerala demanding the right to use public roads for people of all castes and communities. It was launched against the ban imposed on members of marginalised communities on the four streets surrounding the Vaikom Mahadevar Temple.

    Impacts of the Vaikom Satyagraha

    • Vaikom Satyagraha was a testing ground for the Gandhian Principles of Satyagraha.
    • In 1925, Gandhiji wrote to W. H. Pitt, then Police Commissioner of Travancore to resolve the ongoing matter. Thus, Pitt intervened and a settlement was signed between the Government and Gandhiji.
    • In 1925, the Government agreed to nullify the prohibitory orders passed in February 1924, and Gandhiji gave his consent to withdraw the Satyagraha. It was announced by the government that roads (pathways) on three sides of the Shiv shrine or Mahadev temple of Vaikom (north, south, and west) would be open for all public but the road on the eastern side i.e the roads leading to that eastern approach would be reserved for Savarnas only.
    • Many historians believed the Vaikom Satyagraha had not given the desired outcome, while considered the settlement was humiliating as compared to the enigma of the revolutionary cause. However, this movement laid the foundation which ultimately laid the fruit to end orthodox colonialism.
    • The Vaikom Satyagraha proclaimed its significance almost a decade later when in November 1936, the historic Temple Entry Proclamation was passed, which lifted the age-old orthodox ban on the entry of marginalized depressed castes into the temples of Travancore.
    • It was also a great opportunity for the Indian National Congress Party to Grow in Kerala.
    • It became the first struggle for human rights in India.
    • The Vaikom Satyagraha had a significant impact on Indian society and politics. It led to the formation of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), a social reform organization that worked for the upliftment of the lower castes in Kerala.

    Views of Critics

    • Meanwhile, historians are concerned about the attempts of various organisations to hijack the Vaikom Satyagraha by terming it a religious reformation movement instead of a social reformation movement.

    Conclusion

    • The Vaikom Satyagraha was a pivotal moment in the Indian independence movement that brought attention to the injustices of the caste system and the need for social reform. The protest helped pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society and demonstrated the power of nonviolent resistance in achieving social change.

     

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] The Vaikom Satyagraha was a pivotal moment in the Indian independence movement that brought attention to the injustices of the caste system. Critically Analyse.