order was released to the public in 1910.
Mahatma Ayyankali also pioneered a movement for democratizing
public places and asserting the rights of workers even before the
establishment of any trade unions in Kerala. He soon became a voice for
the untouchables in Kerala and associated himself with genuine social
reformers who were aiming to restructure the decadent Hindu society.
Ayyankali was later nominated to the assembly of Travancore in 1910 as a
mark of recognition of his leadership abilities. In the assembly, the high
caste members who scoffed at him being an illiterate low-caste were
shocked to find in him an eloquent speaker. Finally on 18 June, 1941, he
passed away leaving behind a legacy of social reform, progress and a
lasting legacy. But as with the venerable Sree Narayana Guru, this savant
is not known to the vast majority of Indians except his followers in Kerala.
Reform Movement: With the support he received from his well-wishers,
Ayyankali established Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham to help the Dalits
by providing them education, finance and legal support. During that
period, after Sree Narayana Guru’s SNDP, the next most powerful welfare
organization was Ayyankali’s SJPS with the slogan ‘Progress through
education and organization.’ Within a short period it had close to a
thousand branches in all parts of Kerala.
While all these changes were taking place, several missionaries based
in Kerala were asking the untouchables to accept Christianity to escape
caste discrimination. When Ayyankali was informed of this issue, he
asked the missionaries as to why the numerous Syrian Christians who
were already residing in the state practiced caste-based prejudices,
concluding correctly that conversion to Christianity will not do
untouchables any good. He also rejected the missionary misinformation
about the spurious Aryan-Dravidian racial constructs. Along with Sree
Narayana Guru, Ayyankali asked the Hindu society to reform itself to save
it from dissolution. He gave his support to the efforts taken by other
organisations to eradicate caste prejudices.
E V RAMASWAMY PERIYAR