Bhagya Reddy Varma

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Remember Bhagya Reddy Varma (May 22, 1888 – July 2, 1950) the “Father of Dalit Movement in Andhra Pradesh” on his birth anniversary. His original name was Madari Bhagaiah and he was founder of Adi Hindu Movement in Andhra Pradesh. Bhagya Reddy Varma was born in a Dalit, Mala caste family in the princely Hyderabad State to Madari Venkaiah.

Bhagya Reddy Varma founded around 26 schools in around Hyderabad region for Dalits. He established Dalit panchayat courts to settle disputes among dalits. He chaired All India conference of Schedules castes held at Lucknow on 27, 28 December 1930, to support send delegation to Round Table conference. Babasaheb Ambedkar was present in this meeting.

In 1906, he started Jagan Mitra Mandali to educate Dalits through popular folklore. Mandali worked on the social consciousness among untouchables. Later in 1911, he founded Manya Sangham, which tried to create awareness among untouchables through literature and lectures.

Bhagya Reddy Varma had launched a movement against devadasi system, forcing the Nizam to declare it a crime.

Iyothee Thass

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C. Iyothee Thass (20 May 1845 – 1914) was a prominent Tamil anti-caste activist and a practitioner of Siddha medicine. He famously converted to Buddhism and called upon the Paraiyars to do the same, arguing that this was their original religion. He also founded the Panchamar Mahajana Sabha in 1891 along with Rettamalai Srinivasan. Panchamas are the ones who do not come under Varna system; they are called as Avarna communities.

“Iyothee Thass” is the most common Anglicized spelling of his name; other spellings include Pandit C. Ayodhya Dasa, C. Iyothee Doss, C. Iyodhi Doss, C. Iyothee Thoss, K. Ayōttitācar (avarkaḷ), K. Ayōttitāsa (paṇṭitaravarkaḷ), or Ayothidas Pandithar.

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Shahu of Kolhapur

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Shahu (also known as Chhatrapati Rajarshi Shahu, Shahu IV, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, Kolhapur’s Shahu) GCSI GCIE GCVO (26 June 1874 – 6 May 1922) of the Bhonsle dynasty of Marathas was a Raja (reign. 1894 – 1900) and the first Maharaja (1900–1922) of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur. He was hypothecated by Maharaja Shivaji IV and Queen Anadibai.

In his time Rajarshi Shahu was considered a democrat and social reformer, and his rule saw the implementation of progressive policies such as an embryonic reservation system for lower caste and non-caste groups and expanding access to education regardless of caste and creed.

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Jogendra Nath Mandal

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Jogendranath Mandal (যোগেন্দ্রনাথ মন্ডল) (29 January 1904 – 5 October 1968), was one of the founding fathers of modern state of Pakistan, and legislator serving as country’s first minister of law and labour, and also was second minister of Commonwealth and Kashmir affairs. In the cabinet of Interim Government of India, He got the law portfolio before.

As a leader of the Scheduled Castes (Dalits), Jogendranath Mandal campaigned against the division of Bengal in 1947, believing that the divided Bengal would mean that Dalits would be at the mercy of the Muslim majority in East Bengal (Pakistan), and at the thraldom of majority caste-Hindus in West Bengal (India). In the end, he decided to maintain his base in East Pakistan, hoping that the Dalits would be benefited from it and joined the first cabinet in Pakistan as the Minister of Law and Labour. He migrated to India a few years after partition after submitting his resignation to Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, citing the anti-Dalits bias of Pakistani administration.

Babu Mangu Ram Mugowalia

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Mangu Ram (14 January 1886 – 22 April 1980), known popularly as Babu Mangu Ram Chaudhry, was an Indian freedom fighter, a politician from Punjab and one of the founder members of the Ghadar Party.

In 1909, he immigrated to the United States and there became associated with the Ghadar Party. Upon his return to India in 1925, he became a leader of the low-caste people, organising them in opposition to the system of untouchability that oppressed them. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Ad-Dharmi Movement, an organisation dedicated to attaining equality for Untouchables. He was elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1946 and in 1972 received recognition in the form of a pension and an award from Indira Gandhi for his work towards Indian independence.

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Erode Venkatappa Ramaswamy Periyar

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Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy (17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973), revered as Periyar or Thanthai Periyar, was an Indian social activist and politician who started the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He is known as the ‘Father of the Dravidian movement’. He rebelled against Brahminical dominance and gender and caste inequality in Tamil Nadu. Since 2021, the Indian state of Tamil Nadu celebrates his birth anniversary as ‘Social Justice Day’.

Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919, but resigned in 1925 when he felt that the party was only serving the interests of Brahmins. He questioned the subjugation of non-Brahmin Dravidians as Brahmins enjoyed gifts and donations from non-Brahmins but opposed and discriminated against non-Brahmins in cultural and religious matters. In 1924, Ramasamy participated in non-violent agitation (satyagraha) in Vaikom, Travancore. From 1929 to 1932 Ramasamy made a tour of British Malaya, Europe, and Soviet Union which influenced him. In 1939, Ramasamy became the head of the Justice Party, and in 1944, he changed its name to Dravidar Kazhagam. The party later split with one group led by C. N. Annadurai forming the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949. While continuing the Self-Respect Movement, he advocated for an independent Dravida Nadu (land of the Dravidians).

Ramasamy promoted the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste. He opposed the exploitation and marginalisation of the non-Brahmin Dravidian people of South India and the imposition of what he considered Indo-Aryan India.

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Savitribai Phule

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Savitribai Jyotirao Phule (3 January 1831 – 10 March 1897) was an Indian social reformer, educationalist, and poet from Maharashtra. Along with her husband, in Maharashtra, she played an important and vital role in improving women’s rights in India.

She is considered to be the pioneer of India’s feminist movement. Savitribai and her husband founded one of the first modern Indian girls’ school in Pune, at Bhide wada in 1848. She worked to abolish the discrimination and unfair treatment of people based on caste and gender.

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Jyotirao Phule

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Jyotirao Govindrao Phule, also known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (11 April 1827 – 28 November 1890) was an Indian social activist, thinker, anti-caste social reformer and writer from Maharashtra. His work extended to many fields, including eradication of untouchability and the caste system and for his efforts in educating women and oppressed caste people.

He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women’s education in India. Phule started his first school for girls in 1848 in Pune at Tatyasaheb Bhide’s residence or Bhidewada. He, along with his followers, formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Truth Seekers) to attain equal rights for people from lower castes. People from all religions and castes could become a part of this association which worked for the upliftment of the oppressed classes. Phule is regarded as an important figure in the social reform movement in Maharashtra. He was bestowed with honorific Mahātmā (Sanskrit: “great-souled”, “venerable”) title by Maharashtrian social activist Vithalrao Krishnaji Vandekar in 1888.

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Guru Ravidas

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Ravidas or Raidas, was an Indian mystic poet-saint of the bhakti movement during the 15th to 16th century CE. Venerated as a guru (teacher) in the modern regions of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, he was a poet, social reformer and spiritual figure.

The life details of Ravidas are uncertain and contested. Scholars believe he was born in 1450 CE. But something Scholars believe he was born in 1377 CE and dead in 1528 CE. He taught removal of social divisions of caste and gender, and promoted unity in the pursuit of personal spiritual freedom.

Ravidas’s devotional verses were included in the Sikh scriptures known as Guru Granth Sahib. The Panch Vani text of the Dadu Panthi tradition within Hinduism also includes numerous poems of Ravidas. He is also the central figure within the Ravidassia religious movement.

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Kumari Mayawati (born 15 January 1956) is an Indian politician. She has served four separate terms as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She is the national president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which focuses on a platform of social change for Bahujans, more commonly known as Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as converted minorities from these castes. She was chief minister briefly in 1995 and again in 1997, then from 2002 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2012.

Mayawati’s rise from humble beginnings has been called a “miracle of democracy” by P. V. Narasimha Rao, former prime minister of India. In 1993 Kanshi Ram formed a coalition with the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1995. She was the first female Scheduled Caste chief minister in India. In 1997 and in 2002 she was chief minister with outside support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the second time only for a year up to 26 August 2003 due to BJP withdrawing support.

Mayawati’s tenure has attracted praise and criticism. Millions of Dalits across India view her as an icon, and refer to her as Behen-ji (sister). She has been praised for her fundraising efforts on behalf of her party and her birthdays have been widely celebrated by her supporters. The rise in her personal wealth and that of her party have been criticised as indicative of corruption.

After losing the 2012 legislative assembly elections to Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, she resigned from her post as party leader on 7 March 2012. Later that month, she was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament.

Mayawati was born on 15 January 1956 at Shrimati Sucheta Kriplani Hospital, New Delhi into a Dalit family of Jatav caste. Her father Prabhu Das, was a post office employee at Badalpur village, near Dadri in Gautam Buddha Nagar. The sons in the family were sent to private schools, while the daughters went to “low-performing government schools”.

Mayawati studied for her B.A. in 1975 at the Kalindi College, University of Delhi and obtained her LL.B. from the prestigious Faculty of Law, University of Delhi in 1983. She completed a B.Ed. from Meerut University’s VMLG College, Ghaziabad, in 1976. She was working as a teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi, and studying for the Indian Administrative Services exams, when Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other backward castes politician Kanshi Ram visited her family home in 1977. According to biographer Ajoy Bose, Ram told her: “I can make you such a big leader one day that not one but a whole row of IAS officers will line up for your orders.” Kanshi Ram included her as a member of his team when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984. Mayawati was first elected to Parliament in 1989.

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