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Annai Meenambal Sivaraj - First Dalit Woman President of Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF)

India's First National Level Scheduled Classes Woman Leader - Annai Meenambal Sivaraj

Annai Meenambal Sivaraj - First Dalit Woman President of Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF)

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's beloved sister and Women Icon Annai Mennambal Sivaraj was blessing to the aboriginal people. She was as blessed with prosperity and august personality as she was. She had been endowed with knowledge and capability. One of the most famous personality she was. She is entitled to have a special place in the history of the struggle of the aboriginal people.

Annai Meenambal Sivaraj was born to V. G. Vasudevapillai and Meenakshi on 26th December 1904. It is not merely an exaggeration to say that our Annai's birth itself was a glory. One of her grand fathers P. M. Madurai Pillai was a big merchant from Vellore, Tamil Nadu. Madurai Pillai was her grand father through her mother's lineage and he was an eminent ship merchant in Rangoon. Loving able people around him, he had earned a name as a benefactor. At the same time he possessed such huge money that could even buy ships of his own. V. G. Vasudevapillai, Annai Meenambal's father was the famous among the Adi-Dravida Leaders. And he was the first elected person to the Corporation of Madras from the aboriginal people.

It was historic that Annai Meenambal's public service has all started from her first address in 1928 in favour of the Simon Commission. Since the year 1930, she continued to spread the message of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in South India. She was fortunate enough to be called by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself called her as, "My dear Sister". It was Annai Meenambal who rendered the title "PERIYAR" to E.V. Ramasamy a well known leader of Tamil Nadu. Her public service was as active till the year of 1980. She died on 30th November 1992.

True, her fervent labouring towards the people's advancement had earned a lot of opportunities to her as the first Scheduled Classes woman to become member of Madras Corporation and Deputy Mayor of Madras Corporation. She was an honorary magistrate for Madras Province, the Member of Post-war Reconstruction committee.

Annai Meenambal Shivaraj, Dr. Ambedkar and Thanthai N. Sivaraj
Annai Meenambal Shivaraj, Dr. Ambedkar and Thanthai N. Sivaraj

Annai Meenambal had paid her service joining force with Adi-Dravida leaders who admired her for her service. She initiated the women audience to actively participated in social uplift of the Scheduled Classes and they should impart education to their children, improve their confidence and inculcate in them good moral culture. She advised women to fight and liberate themselves form untochability, casteism and oppression. In spite of this, she was never hesitant to prove her individuality. There were hundreds of conference and meetings which she blessed with her Presidentship. Her irrefutable advice that she gave at the Tirunelveli Adi-Dravidian conference which was convened on 31st January 1937,

"It is said that a family without unity will perish. For this reason it must be known that a society, nation or anything else needs the strength of unity to gain its progress. Although it will take a long time to do away with this sin of case consciousness from our country, all the people of our community must unite together with each other to prove that we are too human beings"

I dunno how many PERIYARISTS know about her?



  • She gave the title "PERIYAR" (Great one) to E.V. RAMASWAMY in a women conference in Madras. But facts like these were covered up and did not reach the popular discourse. Even I dunno how many of Periyarists know about it.

  • Her husband N. Sivaraj was the President of "All India Scheduled Castes Federation".  AISCF was the first all India political party exclusively for the Scheduled Classes of India. It was founded by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in the national convention of the Scheduled Classes held at Nagpur during 17-20 July 1942. It was presided by Thanthai N. Sivaraj and he was elected as its first President. When the Republican Party of India was founded in 1957, he was again elected as its First President and continued working to establish the party's organization until he died in 1964. He served as a Member of Parliament once during British rule and once after Independence on behalf of the Republican party from 1957 to 1962.

  • Annai Meenambal was the First President of 'All India Scheduled Castes Women's Federation'. She presided over the first AISCF Women’s conference held at Madras, in 1944, which was attended by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. She also presided over the second AISCF women’s conference held at Bombay, on May 6th, 1945.

Words of Annai Meenambal:

"I think the year was 1938…we were running an organisation for Tamil Nadu’s women. A person called Narayaniamma was a professor at Queen Mary’s College then. She told me, “All important people in Madras Presidency have special titles…but, E.V.R. alone does not have any such title. We have to give him some title through our Association.”.. I gave the suggestion – ‘E.V.R. shows us all the way and is the father of Rationalism here…He occupies a higher place than any others we can compare him to, we can give him the title of ‘Periyar’ (the great one)’ And so, we organised a meeting at the Victoria Public Hall that was near Moore Market then and announced this title formally. E.V.R. was in jail at the time, after having been arrested during the anti-Hindi agitation. After the meeting was over, we went to see him in person and told him the news of having given him the title of ‘Periyar’. He laughed. From this, we took it that he had accepted the ‘Periyar’ title…” said Meenambal Sivaraj. 

Remembering Dr.Babaeaheb Ambedkar, Meenambal Sivaraj says, 

“Ambedkar was skilled at cooking. Once, I participated in a meeting of the Scheduled Caste Federation at Bombay. Returning from the meeting, we were really hungry…Ambedkar took some of us who had participated in the meeting to his ‘Rajgriha’ home and served us food with his own hands. The important thing here is, he had cooked the food himself! When he came to Chennai, the Chettinad Raja Sir Muthiah Chettiar would ask him teasingly, “Do you have any dear ones in Chennai?” To which Ambedkar would reply, “But my sister Meenambal is in Madras.”

I dare to say here, leaders like Pandit Iyothee Thass, Thatha Rettamalai Srinivasan, Perunthalaivar M.C. Rajah, Thanthai N. Sivaraj and Annai Meenambal Sivaraj had been neglected by our own fellows and the Shudra fellows of Tamil Nadu. I must thankful to Paari Chelian ayya, Gowthama Meena akka and Srithar anna.

Compiled:
Dharmapuri,
Tamil Nadu.

Reference:

1.  'Our Leaders' by Anbu Ponnoviam, Siddhartha Publications, Chennai.
2. 'Words of Annai Meenambal' taken from Paari Chelian article.

Jai bheem..!


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