Ayyankali (1863–1941)

§   Ayyankali was a social reformer who worked for the advancement of the lower caste Dalits known as the Untouchables.
§   He pioneered many reforms to improve the lives of the Dalits.
§   Ayyankali was born in 1863 in Venganoor, Trivandrum.
§   He was one of seven children born to Ayyan and Mala, members of Pulaya community. He was illiterate as were all Dalits at that time.
§   In those days Dalits were not allowed to walk along public roads. The Dalit women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places.
§   Ayyankali organized Dalits and fought against these discriminations.
§   He passed through the public roads of Venganoor (1893) on a bullock cart which was not allowed for the Dalits. Enraged by his boldness, the upper castes physically attacked him.
§   Ayyankali demanded right for Dalit children to study in school, which was not granted.
§   Ayyankali opened a school to teach the children belonging to Dalit families at Venganoor which was set ablaze by upper caste people.
§   In response to this, in 1907 he led a strike of agricultural labourers at Venganoor which lasted for more than a year.
§   He called for boycott of agricultural work raising certain demands. His demands included (a) stoppage of the practice of not giving tea in tea shops to Dalits who were given tea till then in coconut shells; (b) right to education for the Dalit children; (c) resting time for workers during work hours; and (d) replacement of the system of wages in kind by payment of cash.
§   Initially the land lords did not take it seriously. They tried many means and methods to defeat the workers. But, at last, they were forced to concede the demands of Ayyankali and his supporters.
§   In 1907 Ayyankali established Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (SJPS) which campaigned for access to schools and raised funds to set up Pulayar-operated schools in the interim.
§   Ayyankali was later nominated to the Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly, in 1910 by the then rulers in recognition of his leadership ability.
§   He was the first member from the dalit community to become a member in Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly.
§   In 1913 Ayyankali launched ‘Sadhujana Paripalini’ as the mouthpiece of Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham.
§   The first editor of the journal was Chempunthara Kalichothi Karuppan.
§   An attempt by Ayyankali to enrol a Pulayar girl in a government school led to violent acts perpetrated by upper castes against the community and eventually to the burning-down of the school building in the village of Ooruttambalam. It is known as ‘Ooruttambalam Lahala’ or ‘Thonnootonpathamand Lahala’. It was staged in 1915 (1099 of Kollam Era).
§   By 1900 Dalits were given the freedom to walk on the public roads, and by 1914, Dalit children were allowed to join schools.
§   Also, Dalit women were allowed to cover their nakedness in public through his efforts.
§   In 1937 he was praised by Mahatma Gandhi in a meeting at Venganur, home town of Ayyankali when Gandhiji visited Trvancore in connection with the Temple Entry Proclamation.
§   Ayyankali passed away on 18th June, 1941.
§   In November 1980, Indira Gandhi unveiled a statue of Ayyankali at Kowdiar square in Thiruvananthapuram.
§   The headquarters of the Scheduled Caste Development Department is named after AyyanKali.

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