Periyar and his legacy can always be problematised. But a necessary pre-condition for this is that he must not be decontextualised.
Tamil Nadu’s public institutions have been exorcised of the Brahmin ghost and are now ruled by non-brahmins and non-Dalits. It is to hide this that a fake Brahmin-ghost is continuously being exorcised.
The caste system has always been based on collusion between multiple hegemonic forces. Periyar failed to recognise that.
Periyar problematised what freedom meant, who it benefitted and who it excluded. But that doesn’t mean he gave a clean chit to colonialism.
The reason is simple. The national intellectual landscape is verdant. The Dravidian landscape, on the other hand, is an arid desert, and Periyar was the only cactus plant to have bloomed in it.
To evaluate the role data plays, we need to understand if data in its modern avatar is more akin to being pey – a vampire-like evil spirit – or bhutham – a friendly ghost.
Half of the electorate in Periyar’s land face brutal violence every day; women are now demanding an end to fear, beatings and rape.
In conversation with Sunil Khilnani on his new book, Incarnations, and what he hopes this work will mean for how India and the world perceive Indian history.