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Courtesy: Indix Online

Remembering a social movement in 1917 against untouchability in coastal Andhra

Courtesy: South First

Bhagya Reddy Varma of Hyderabad (left) and Sundru Venkaiah of Eluru were some of the prominent SC leaders who took part in the 'Adi Andhra Maha Sammelanam' from 4 to 6 November in Vijayawada in 1917 as part of a social movement against untouchability (Supplied)

Not many know that a social movement to eradicate untouchability took place in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh 105 years ago, much before Mahatma Gandhi who spearheaded India’s independence struggle launched the Harijan Movement in 1932.

The coastal Andhra region in the then Madras province has been called a progressive society due to the emergence of social reformers like Kandukuri Veeresalingam who advocated widow marriages and fought against the dowry system.

A movement aimed at eradicating untouchability was also taken up in coastal Andhra by leaders such as Vemuri Ramji, freedom fighter Kasinadhuni Nageswara Rao — also the founder of the oldest Telugu daily ‘Andhra Patrika’ and Amrutanjan Balm — and Unnava Lakshmi Narayana, writer of the novel ‘Malapalli’.

“They focused on the eradication of untouchability and educating the Harijans (now referred to as Dalits) through a sustained social campaign. Many meetings of various social groups were conducted across the coastal districts to highlight the need to take Scheduled Caste people into the mainstream of society. The culmination of this was a three-day state-level meet in Vijayawada in 1917 from 4 to 6 November,” retired academician and social activist Duggaraju Srinivas Rao told South First.

Vemuri Ramji (left), Kasinadhuni Nageswara Rao (centre), and Unnava Lakshmi Narayana were among those who began a social movement in coastal Andhra to eradicate untouchability (Supplied)

A report in ‘Andhra Patrika’ about 1917 meeting

Srinivas came to know that such a movement against untouchability in Andhra had taken place in the coastal districts more than 100 years ago when he read a small booklet published by a social organisation called ‘Samajika Samarasata Vedika’.

Srinivas was looking for information about the social movement against untouchability when he found a newspaper report by ‘Andhra Patrika’ in which there was a detailed description of the 1917 meeting in Vijayawada including a verbatim report of the speeches made by the participants.

The report in ‘Andhra Patrika’ about the ‘Adi Andhra Maha Sammelanam’ from 4 to 6 November in Vijayawada in 1917 (Supplied)

SC leaders in a horse-drawn cart

“During the three-day meeting held from 4 to 6 November in 1917 called ‘Adi Andhra Maha Sammelanam’, SC leaders such as Bhagya Reddy Varma and Sundru Venkaiah were taken in the horse-drawn cart of Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, then a member of Madras Assembly, through the main streets of the town with the other so-called forward caste people leading the procession on foot. That was a scene that was never seen earlier,” added Srinivas.

The other highlight of the 1917 meeting in Vijayawada was the public apology expressed by a group of forward community leaders such as Nallapati Hanumantha Rao to the SC people assembled for the treatment they were subjected to all those years, he said.

Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao (Supplied)

The prominent SC personalities who were invited and took part in the three-day event were Bhagya Reddy Varma of Hyderabad, Sundru Venkaiah of Eluru, and Vemula Kurmayya of Vijayawada.

The problems faced by the SC community and the demands that were to be put forth before the then-colonial rulers were discussed in the meetings.

A few resolutions about their demands such as social respect from others, establishment of schools in the areas where they lived, and provision for participation in panchayat decision-making were also passed.

Vemula Kurmayya (Supplied)

1917 meeting against untouchability in Andhra: Commemorative event on 6 November 2022

A commemorative meeting is being organised for the first time in Vijayawada on 6 November 2022 to mark the 105th year of the ‘Adi Andhra Maha Sammelanam’.

“Though there have been efforts to bring in social balance and eradicate untouchability in the last 72 years with the spirit of the Constitution, there has been no progress along expected lines. At this juncture, it is appropriate to hold such commemorative meetings to continue that social spirit and also take inspiration from our predecessors,” Samajika Samarasata Vedika president Sri Vishnuvu told South First.

The 6 November event is being conducted at Sri Siddhartha College auditorium in Mogalarajapuram by Samajika Samarasata Vedika.

Rights of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for Hindus only as per thespirit of Indian Constitution: Alok Kuma

Press Statement

Bangaluru. Oct, 16, 2022

‘The Central Government has appointed a Commission under the Chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India Shri k G Balakrishnan with the terms of reference including to examine

1) The matter of according Schedule Caste status to converted Schedule Caste;

2) Its implications to existing Schedule Caste

‘The notification appropriately notes that it shall require “extensive consultations”

‘The VHP reiterates that scheduled castes are the persons who have historically been deprived on the basis of their castes; while the Abrahamic religions claim to have no caste distinction amongst them and therefore SC reservation cannot be extended to them. For this purpose, VHP shall actively participate in the consultation process before the said Commission to assist it into arriving at the appropriate findings.

In 1950, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order was issued making it clear that only Hindu Scheduled Castes would get reservation facilities. Despite this, Christian missionaries and islamic organizations have been making constant efforts for their irrational demands to extend this facility to converted SCs.

We wouldn’t allow to snatch the constitutional rights of SCs, said Alok kumar, the central working president Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). The converted STs should also not be allowed to continue the rights of resevation guaranteed under the law to STs, he added.

While addressing a press conference in Bangaluru today he said that Dr Ambedkar and many Prime Ministers, including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had not acceded the demand to extend benefits to converted SCs. Shri Rajiv Gandhi, Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh tried to accept this demand, but they had to back down due to the nationwide protests. The Sachar Committee in 2005 and the Ranganath Committee in 2009 had made some recommendations in this regard, but due to their self-contradictions and wrong methodologies, their recommendations could not be implemented.
Christian missionaries and Muslim leadership while claiming social equality in their religions and in the same breath raising this demand with great vigour is evidently self-contradictory.

The judiciary has also rejected their demand every time as illogical and unconstitutional. In the case of “Soosai Etc vs Union Of India And Others” on 30th September, 1985, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had clearly directed that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and the amendments made to it were constitutional and this reservation could be given to none else other than Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Scheduled Castes. In the cases of R.C. Poudyal; Somnath Poudyal; Nandu Thapa; Roop Raj Rai, etc., these
provisions of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 were considered appropriate and just, he said.

Due to the potential conversion surge and deluge, the peril of demographic alteration in many areas of Bharat will take a dire form. The consequences of demographic change hostile and ill-disposed to national interest are already obvious in many districts of Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Bengal, Northeast, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, etc. In those pockets, not only has religious intolerance increased, but also India’s identity and worldview and paradigm of ‘Sarv-Panth Samaadar Bhaav’ (‘mutual respect and
harmony among all schools of religion’) has been diluted.

The rights of the Scheduled cast communities of Bharat (India) can’t be allowed to be snatched away by the converts. Backed by their money power, political influence and international support, they will lodge themselves in all areas of reservation and all those members of the scheduled caste communities for whom the provisions of reservations were made will be deprived of the facilities.

Vishva Hindu Parishad would undertake a widespread public awareness campaign across the country to expose the conspiracies of providing reservations to the Scheduled Castes.

‘Absolutely ridiculous’ to say Chola King Rajaraja I was not a Hindu: Karan Singh

Noted actor Kamal Haasan recently remarked that the Hinduism did not exist during the Chola empire and so Chola king Rajaraja Chola was not a Hindu.

Reacting to this absurd comment, former MP and Congress veteran Karan Singh said it was “absolutely ridiculous” to say that the King Rajaraja I of the Chola dynasty was not a Hindu.

In a release, Karan Singh reasoned that Shiva was a ‘primordial Hindu deity,  focus of intense devotion for millions over the millennia from Srinagar down to Rameshwaram.’ Singh said that the emperor built one of the greatest Shiva temples which he referred to as ‘marvels of architecture’,  and especially pointed out the great BrihadeeswaraTemple in Thanjavur, where he claimed to have worshipped many times. 

To say that he was a Shaivite, not a Hindu, is like saying someone is a Catholic but not a Christian. These semantic gymnastics in a way denigrate and confuse our great religion and are not acceptable,” Singh said in the release.

Read the full statement:

And then they came for the Hindus

By – Rami N. Desai

The critical race theory movement that started by canceling George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and then shifted to attacks on Jewish supporters of Israel has quietly adopted a new and unlikely target for castigation: Hindu-Americans. From elite American universities and to left-wing controlled state and local governments, activists are waging a campaign to smear the nation’s fourth-largest religion and stigmatize its practice. While this kind of hatred against Hindus isn’t new, it’s time for political, civic and business leaders to speak out against it.

The status of Hinduism in America hasn’t changed much since the religion was blamed for driving Mrs. Sara Chapman Bull insane more than a century ago. Mrs. Bull was a writer and a philanthropist who became a lifelong sponsor and financial supporter of Swami Vivekananda, a highly revered Hindu monk and philosopher. Mrs. Bull bequeathed her entire estate to Vivekananda’s organization, the Vedanta Society. The two had developed a close friendship with the monk calling Mrs. Bull Dhira Mata or the Calm mother.

But, when Mrs. Bull died in 1911, her daughter, Olea Bull Vaughan, challenged her will in court, arguing that Hindus had driven Mrs. Bull insane. It was a devastating display of hatred towards Hindu practices. The petition stated that the “testator’s brain had been inoculated with the bacteria of faith taught by Indian Swamis.” The evidence: Mrs. Bull burnt incense and meditated. The court ruled against the Hindu monk and reverse Mrs. Bull’s will. As Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero puts it, “Hinduism went on trial in the United States of America.” Unfortunately, Hindus and Hinduism still face the Hinduphobia that formed the basis of the 1911 trial.

The irony of course is that the concept of “caste” is not native to Hinduism or Asia, let alone India. It is a word of Iberian descent, a system imposed by colonialists originally to distinguish “older Christians” from “newer converts.” Discrimination against new converts would be justified as an attempt to maintain lineage, or Casta. Indeed, the concepts of caste society, or Societa de Castas, and blood purity were imposed on Hindu society by Portuguese colonizers to divide a Hindu society built on egalitarian social structures. History and facts matter little, it seems, to the critical race theory movement. The entire movement against caste appears to rest on one shoddy survey conducted by Equality Labs, a far-left social organization, which took unverified reports of discrimination from 1,500 anonymous respondents to represent the facts of life for 5 million Hindu Americans. The Equality Labs report inexplicably defames Hindu society and misrepresents the true nature of structures in Hindu society. And it has now become the foundational publication cited by those pushing for anti-Hindu policies in governments, universities and corporations.

Further, the now infamous suit brought forward by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Cisco alleging that the company’s managers who belong to a higher caste had discriminated against the complainant who belongs to a lower caste and that the Dalit Indian employee (an alumni of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology) is darker complexioned than his higher caste managers. This utterly flawed premise of discrimination completely fails to explain the dark Brahmin found amongst the Hindus. But unfortunately, this too has become a landmark case in the burgeoning debate of caste discrimination. Academic institutions like Harvard University, Brandeis University (the first University to make caste a part of its non-discrimination policy), University of California (Davis), California State University amongst many others have also recognized caste discrimination based on the Equality Labs report. Ironically, considering the consistent negative criticism meted out to the Hindu society, it has been the most successful diaspora around the world. They tend to assimilate well in their host countries, they are successful entrepreneurs and professionals. They are generous and give back to the societies that they are welcomed by. For instance, Hindu Faith based non- profit organisation Sewa International’s response to Covid- 19 translated to $15 million in food, PPE kits, medical supplies and groceries being served in lower income and vulnerable communities. Over 5000 volunteers were engaged, and this was just in the United States. Their Covid relief extended to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad amongst a host of other countries in need, irrespective of race, gender, religion or nationality. But the chances of this being spoken of or used by the Hindu diaspora to defend themselves and their egalitarian approach to life would be a rarity. The issue lies with the complacency of the Hindus to protect themselves, prevent their identity from being attacked and leverage their strengths. It’s been a long-standing deficit. 

Present non-discrimination policy can address the issue of caste discrimination if at all a case comes up, but to single out Hindus, to make them targets is in itself discriminatory. History has a way of repeating itself. Hinduism is going on trial once again.

Rami Niranjan Desai is an author, columnist and anthropologist.

The Article first appear in News Bharati