People from all walks of life packed the Los Cerritos Community Center in Fremont, California, on Oct. 12 for the launch of the Tamil translation of “Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.”
Released in honor of Periyar EV Ramasamy’s 140th birth anniversary, the event drew over 130 people, according to a news release.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. K. Veeramani, president of Dravidar Kazhagam, the social movement founded by Periyar in 1944.
Veeramani praised the book as useful for devotion, adding, “We are happy that a Tamil translation is made available. We would be honored, and I request the permission and I already obtained it, for the release in Tamil Nadu also.”
“Captivating,” co-authored by Pieter Friedrich and Bhajan Singh, traces the history and struggles of the subcontinent’s Mulnivasi Bahujan, which coalesced in the Sikh Panth (path) that sought — and secured — liberation of the subjugated masses, the release said.
The book describes Periyar as a great Mulnivasi leader who “arose to further challenge Brahmanism,” explaining that he “agitated for rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights, and against caste.”
Examining his agitation against untouchability in Vaikom, Kerala, especially the role of Christians and Sikhs, it states, “With Periyar at the head, the movement developed into one of the most unified in South Asian history,” the release adds.
“We have heard how the idea of another human being being described as so sub-human that the mere shadow or presence of such a being can pollute the whole village, the whole land,” said co-author Bhajan Singh at the event.
“When Guru Nanak came upon the earth, he declared one mission, and he said: ‘The lowliest of the lowly, the lowest of the low born, Nanak seeks their company. The friendship of great is in vain. For, where the weak are cared for, there Thy Mercy rains,’” the co-author added.
“So it’s an open declaration of war against the powerful, the Brahmins, and the mighty. Guru Nanak said, ‘I have no business with you. My friendship, my business is with the lowest of society,’” Singh said.
Dr. Amrik Singh, a professor of Punjabi and ethnic studies at California State University, Sacramento, spoke on behalf of the Sikh Information Center at the event, the release said.
“’Captivating the Simple-Hearted’ is a sincere scholarly attempt to examine the course of the historical journey of the Indian subcontinent. It lays bare the subtle strands of the socio-political structure of Brahmanical society,” Amrik Singh said. “This book blends the vision of Guru Granth Sahib and the Mulnivasi history into one goal that was given to Sikhs by Guru Nanak when he said the Guru’s blessing shall pour forth where the lowest of the low are cared for and protected.”
G. Karunanidhy, general secretary of the All India Federation of Other Backward Castes, delivered introductory remarks. He later commented, “The event understood the relevance of Periyar in today’s context of oppression at various levels throughout the world and endorsed the need to propagate the ideals of Periyar globally.”
Suganthi, an alumna of Periyar Maniammai Deemed University, served as the emcee. The organizers, on behalf of America Quaide-Millet Peravai, presented Veeramani with a “Social Justice Warrior” award. The event was organized by Periyar International, California chapter and co-sponsored by SIC and OFMI.