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Monday, Oct 25, 2021
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Fenced By The Thread

Early 20th century saw several social reform movements in Kerala succeeding in varied degrees. Yet an undercurrent of casteism persists today to the benefit of politicians.

Fenced By The Thread
Illustration by R. Prasad
Fenced By The Thread
outlookindia.com
2017-08-12T14:17:01+05:30

Historically, geology and geography have shaped Kerala, but, in the last two centuries, politics, culture and technology have lent their powerful hands in sculpting this unusual land. Ideas and practices from overseas found fertility in the land of pepper and coconut. Powerful winds from the mainland effected profound changes. Vaikom satyagraha (1924-25) is the story of how such gusts combined to reshape enduring local edifices. The central issue was caste and the scene Vaikom, a temple town in the north of Travancore, a princ­ely state that was nominally indepe­ndent but controlled largely by the British.

Based on old and unempirical ideas about souls, birth, incarnations and related ideas about entitlements, privilege and exclusion, caste worked as an elaborate and self-perpetuating set of institutionalised injustices. It determined everything about a person’s life. Its dictates were accepted as natural law.

The operations of caste created a unique society in Travancore and Kerala. Some of its manifestations took on such bizarre forms that a...

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