Book on unsung life of woman who broke iron ceiling of caste in Kerala
Ramdas highlights an interesting incident where Velayudhan faced discrimination while her mother did not.
By Rajesh Abraham
KOCHI: As the 111th birth anniversary celebrations of Dakshayani Velayudhan, the first and only Dalit woman in the Constituent Assembly, began in Kochi on Monday, a new book on her shed light on many lesser-known aspects of her life, including her constant struggle against oppression by the upper castes.
The book, titled ‘Kaala Shasanakalkku Keezhadungatha Dakshayani Velayudhan’ by historian Cherai Ramdas chronicles the unsung life of the only Dalit woman in the Constituent Assembly.In the book, Ramdas narrates an incident that took place in August 1936 when a proposal was brought before the Cochin Assembly to send the young Velayudhan for an MA course in Madras.
When Panampilly Govinda Menon, a member of the assembly, raised a question about the worthiness of sending Velayudhan for an MA, the government representatives responded with, “There are many other worthwhile things we could do.” This offensive response reflects the oppressive environment in which the Dalit woman grew up.
Velayudhan, who was born in Mulavukad, a small island off Kochi, also faced discrimination at Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, where she pursued her undergraduate course, at the hands of upper-caste teachers. The book cites an example from her time studying BSc in chemistry.
Ramdas writes that Velayudhan, belonging to the Pulaya community, was the first person from her community to be admitted to BSc, and on the first day of class, news photographers lined up to capture her picture. Despite entering the class unnoticed, Ramdas writes that her upper-caste teachers noticed her.
The upper-caste teachers showed no interest in guiding her through the laboratory experiments. Despite this, Velayudhan excelled in her studies and passed the course with flying colours in 1935.
Ramdas highlights an interesting incident where Velayudhan faced discrimination while her mother did not. In July 1935, when she was appointed as a teacher at Thrissur’s Peringothikara High School, neither Velayudhan nor her helper girl, belonging to another Scheduled Caste (SC), Vettuva, were prohibited from drawing water from a well.
However, there was no prohibition for Velayudhan’s mother, as she had converted to Christianity. The book notes that Velayudhan’s marriage took place at Gandhiji’s Wardha Ashram (Sevagram) in September 1941, in the presence of Gandhiji and Kasturba Gandhi. The marriage ceremony was conducted by a leprosy patient, as desired by Gandhiji. Her husband, R Velayudhan, is an uncle of K R Narayanan, who later became the President of India.
The book also delves into Velayudhan’s speeches, her career as the editor of Gandhi Era Publications in Madras, and her various interventions in lawmaking after being nominated to the Cochin Legislative Council in 1945. Velayudhan, who was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the Madras constituency at the age of 34, was also one of the youngest members of the Assembly. She passed away on July 20, 1978, at the age of 66.
Courtesy : TNIE
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