Beyond Ideological Differences: When Periyar Advocated Naming the Nation 'Gandhi Nadu', Read More

Book Review: "Mahatma Gandhiyum Thanthai Periyarum: Vetrumaiyil Otrumai" explores how constructive criticisms bridged the gap between the two leaders, who were initially perceived as standing in polar opposites.
Beyond Ideological Differences:  When Periyar Advocated Naming the Nation 'Gandhi Nadu', Read More

Chennai- In the public hall of Satyamoorthy Bhavan, on March 18, a critically important event happened. It was the launch of the book, "Mahatma Gandhi and Thanthai Periyar". The place and the event brought together two movements born in 20th-century India – the Congress Movement and the Dravidian Movement.

Congress was not there as the opposition party, but as a movement. The Dravidian Movement, which was one of the constructive critiquing parties for Congress, joined the launch.

The book titled "Mahatma Gandhiyum Thanthai Periyarum: Vetrumaiyil Otrumai" discusses the contradictions and closeness between Thanthai Periyar and Mahatma Gandhi.

During the launch, Tamil Nadu Congress Leader Peter Alphonse, Asiriyar K. Veeramani, and the author of "Maamanithar Nehru Gopanna" joined the launch.

The author, Thakkolam Jambu, is an old cadre of the Congress Party. He lived in a crucial time, associating himself with diverse movements which spoke of Dravidianism, Tamil Nationalism, and primarily Congress (Indira).

The book is promising for beginners who are reading about politics, particularly about Periyar’s Reception of Gandhi or the Dravidian Movement’s Reception of Congress. Beginners because the book provides a basic overview of Gandhi and Periyar, but only mildly discusses the contradictions between the two.

The book points out how Periyar was closely associated with Gandhian strategy and goals. But, when we ask certain people who portray themselves as Periyarists, they will only talk about Periyar’s critique of Gandhi’s approach to the Poona Pact. However, it is important to note that Periyar asked the nation to be named as Gandhi Naadu when Gandhi was killed by a Brahmin, Nathuram Godse.

The book also mentions how constructive criticisms bridged Gandhi and Periyar, who were standing in polar opposites. The author argues that Periyar had a constructive but politically charged relationship with Gandhi. The author mentions how Periyar struggled to uphold the constructive program of Gandhi, better than the Swarajya, as well as many Congressmen who claim to uphold “Gandhi”.

Even the economic goals of Periyar and Gandhi had different trajectories but many intersections. However, the author's study is weaker on this question. He mentions only how both thought about constructing a society based on economic equity and had similar economic goals, which include building cooperatives.

The book discusses the contradictions between the Swaraj proposed by Gandhi and the Self Respect conceptualized by Periyar. Though the contradictions differed in their intensities, these contradictions are positive and, most importantly, constructive in nature.

These contradictions helped Congress to take up the Dravidian Goals as well as the Dravidian Movement to take up Gandhian Goals.

Interestingly, the author could have mentioned the idea of civil disobedience, their reception of communism and communists, and many other themes where both will have contradictions but converge at many instances.

The book takes an excellent theme to work with, but the work is still pending as most of the arguments have already been discussed in many books and stages. It is time to find out new contradictions with new interpretations. However, this book stands out as an excellent attempt to emphasize the importance of this Gandhi-Periyar conflict.

Today, the Congress Party is taking the caste question seriously and openly speaking about caste issues everywhere. On the other side, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is playing a crucial role in shaping national politics through its functioning in the INDIA Alliance.

- The author Athmanathan Indrajith is a postgraduate student in Jamia Millia Islamia University. His research interests include Periyar’s works, ecological issues, and peace-building.

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