The basic philosophy of Periyar E.V.Ramasamy (17.9.1879 – 24.12.1973) was all men and women should live with dignity and have equal opportunities to develop their physical, mental and moral faculties. To achieve this, he wanted to put an end to all kinds of unjust discriminations and to promote Social Justice and rational outlook.

To put his principle into practice, Periyar associated himself with the Madras Presidency Association (MPA) in 1917. He was one of its vice-presidents. The Association advocated communal representation and demanded reservation for the Non-Brahmins and minority communities, as a ‘sine qua non’ of removing the injustices.

Initially, he joined the Congress Party in their political activism against British occupation. His critics dispute his contributions to the Congress party and say that his role was magnified as part of Dravidian nationalist propaganda. His views on Aryan Invasion Theory prompted him to change his political position and support the British occupation of South Asia, feeling that the invasionist scenario pseudoscience touted by the British (who viewed themselves as “Aryans” and so justified in their occupation of South Asia) was a valid reason. Mohandas Gandhi did not like his views as he wanted to bring in reforms gradually and spoke of inclusion, not exclusion and hate; Periyar bolted away from the freedom movement.

Periyar and his followers campaigned constantly to influence and pressurise the government to take measures to remove social inequality even while other nationalist leaders focussed on the struggle for political independence.

Hindi imposition in Tamil Nadu started in 1937 when the Congress Government of the Madras Presidency under (Rajaji) made Hindi a compulsory subject in schools. Tamils opposed Hindi imposition immediately and the Justice Party under Sir A. D. Panneerselvam and Periyar organized anti-Hindi imposition protests in 1938 and were arrested and jailed by the Rajaji government. More than 1200 people, including women and children, were imprisoned in 1938, of which two, Thalamuthu and Natarasan, lost their lives. In 1939 the Rajaji government quit and it was withdrawn in 1940 by the British governor.

Justice Party was a rich man’s party and had no grassroots support or leadership. Before World War II, the Justice Party ruled Madras Province for a short period. People voted Congress Party into power soon after the War. It was then the Justice Party began looking for someone popular with the masses, Ramaswami was an obvious choice. And the popular slogan social was “social justice”,as a euphemism for anti-Brahmin rhetoric. He targeted Rajaji, the Congress leader and a Brahmin.

To give a local flavor, Ramaswami changed the name of the Justice Party to Dravidar Kazhagam (Party of the Dravidians). He pitched himself against the so-called “Aryans”, who were the Brahmins again. He avoided parliamentary democracy and started his campaigns on his own. His followers who wanted politics split with him after his marriage to a very young woman and started the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, popularly known as the DMK. The DMK was first led by C.N. Annadurai and after him by M. Karunanidhi. EVR and his dramatic anti-Brahman protests put new life into the party.The Dravidian Federation, and launched a Tamil “cultural offensive,” including theatrical productions of a “reinterpreted” Ramayana-a version transposing hero and villain, in which the Sri Lankan demon king Ravana becomes a heroic “Dravidian of ‘excellent character,’ ” and the Aryan prince Rama a conniving, “despicable character” . This and later political uses of drama capitalized on the strong literary focus among Tamils. Despite such attempts at mass propaganda, however, the party’s membership continued to be drawn from the elite.

The logical culmination of Periyar’s anti-Hindi, anti-north Dravidian non-Brahmanism was reached when the Justice Party became secessionist in nature, demanding an independent Dravidshan for the Dravidians. Thus, caste-region interaction in Tamil Nadu strengthened an exclusionary regional nationalism. Further, it also sought to delegitimize Brahmans not only from society but also from their regional identity. However, this exclusion did not last long. Once the regional claims were realized through formation of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) State and non-Brahman claims were translated into an extensive policy of reservations, Brahmans were incorporated as members into the Tamil society. Brahmans are accommodated as ideologues and legitimizers of the regional legacy of the Dravidian movement.