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Abstract 86

“The Iconoclast, the Conformist and their Caste Reformation: Contextualising the Ideological Conflict of Gandhi and Periyar”

Ms Ashna K. Asok, MPhil Scholar, Department of English, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India

Of the ideological adversaries of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Ambedkar and Jinnah had been much discussed in popular discourses. Ambedkar’s contentions with Gandhi on the issue of caste are an important turning point for public discourse on the history of anti-caste movements. While the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate has been much extensively discussed, Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker , a forerunner of the Non-Brahmin movement and his vocal objections to Gandhi’s idea of caste system, are often eclipsed by the former. Periyar’s ideological dialogue with Gandhi involves a tumultuous trajectory of enchantment by Gandhi’s ideas, his eventual disillusionment then followed by scathing verbal attacks on the very ideas that Gandhi represented . Infact, the very foundations of Periyar’s own Self-Respect movement can be examined as a reactionary attempt to counter Gandhi’s ideas on untouchability, caste and self-rule. Periyar espoused a very radical stance of “No God, No Religion, No Gandhi, No Congress No Brahmins” and made it the very working principle of Self-Respect Movement. It was this ideological rift that led to completely divergent ideas of India espoused by both Gandhi and Periyar.This paper intents to analyze the ideological contentions of Gandhi and Periyar primarily on the issue of Caste which would eventually fledge out to very different ideas of India for Both Gandhi and Periyar. It would also explore how Gandhi’s ideas would the trigger, although on a reactionary note, the very ideals that governed the Self-Respect Movement, and by extension the Dravidian Movement.

Key Words: Periyar E.V Ramasamy, Caste, Self Respect Movement , Non Brahmin Movement, Gandhi’s idea of India

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