EVR Birthday Special falls short of expectations

Too many speeches curtails the Main Address

Venkat Raman

The much-awaited address by one of the most powerful speakers of Tamil Nadu over the weekend had to end abruptly since the organisers of the event failed in their time management, allotting more than two hours for local speakers.

It was meeting to hear the oratory of Subramanian Arivukkarasu on the life and work of the late E V Ramasamy Naicker, founder of Dravida Kazhagam, of which he is now the Executive President based in Cuddalore, about 190 kms from Chennai.

The event, held on Sunday (February 25, 2018) at Panmure Community Hall, started 30 minutes later than the scheduled time of 5 pm but the lapse could have been compensated with a better runsheet.

Premkumar Kandasamy, who presided over the meeting, was undoubtedly at his best and organiser Arivukkarasu Maninilavan worked hard to make the event a reality, but they failed to achieve the main purpose – a full-length speech on Periyar by Mr Arivukkarasu.

Mr Kandasamy invited no less than eight members of the local Tamil community (including this Reporter who was the last and the least speaker) to articulate on ‘Thanthai Periyar’ (Father the Great) as EVR is affectionately known.

Among them were Kathiravan Sivaprakasam, Amalan, Balasubramanian Santhanakrishnan, Senthil Vel, Mahesh Babu, Nirmala Vinothkumar and Dr Mahesan Rasanathan.

All of them were good speakers but were long-drawn and quantitative.

Empowerment of Women

Nirmala’s speech, which was forthright, covering emancipation and empowerment of women, drew wide applause. The young woman spoke with passion.

Others spoke about the virtues of belief in God and how theism and its antonym can and does co-exist, about the life-long battle that Periyar led to abolish casteism, reinforce equality of women and the rise of rationalist thought-everything in fact which Mr Arivukkarasu was expected to cover in his speech.

A small crowd of about 35 persons attended the event, more to listen to him, perhaps challenge his opinions and participate in a lively Question and Answer session.

Poor time management meant that the speech of Mr Arivukkarasu was curtailed with no time for audience response. The reason given was that the Community Hall had to be vacated shortly after 830 pm.

Tribute to EVR Periyar

Even so, the visiting Leader did his utmost to do justice to his role.

He spoke about the ‘Vaikom Satyagraha’ led by Periyar in Travancore (now known as Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram) in 1924 to secure freedom of movement for all people, protesting the ‘untouchability policy’ practiced at that time.

“Thanthai Periyar was the first to organise Satyagraha (peaceful political resistance) in India which was later popularised by Mahatma Gandhi. Periyar dedicated his life to the uplift of the downtrodden and fought against all kinds of social evils including casteism, oppression of the minorities, subjugation of women and suspension of right to education. One of the most significant aspects of his personality was his ‘cut and dry’ policy and ‘say as it is’ (call a spade a spade),” Mr Arivukkarasu said.

Voice against Discrimination

Outlining the work of Periyar in alleviating the suffering of people relating to racial and social discrimination, he said, “Periyar was the first Indian to raise a voice against the so called, ‘backward classes’ in Tamil Nadu in 1917 and sought Reservation in employment and representation. He continued his crusade until the government enforced it by law in 1928. That was his first victory over suppressive forces,” he said.

Gender Equality

Although Nirmala had superbly expounded gender equality earlier, Mr Arivukkarasu said, “Periyar advocated for the rights of women and was considered ahead of his time. He rose against marginalisation of women in the society. He was keen to have women educated and take a more positive role throughout Tamil Nadu,” he said.

Absence of pungency

The Programme had earlier created kerfuffle on speculation that Mr Arivukkarasu would launch his tirade against Hindus and others with religious affiliations (as usually does on public platforms and radio programmes), but it turned out to be much ado about nothing. The visitor’s speech was sans the usual punch, concentrating more on his Leader’s contributions to India’s freedom movement, social reforms and politics.

There were however a couple of mild references to worship and belief, but they were inconsequential.

Credit must be given to the Maninilavan family- his wife Prema and their daughters Adhirai and Anichem and other members of the community for organising the seating arrangements, sound system and snacks and coffee catered by Saffron Restaurant.

Photo :

  1. S Arivukkarasu, Dr Mahesan Rasanathan, A Maninilavan and Prem Kumar Kandasamy with the Portrait of EVR Periyar unveiled at the Meeting
  2. Balasubramanian Arivukkarasu speaking at the Meeting

(Pictures by Gopi Dinakaran)

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