by Roushan on 01 Oct 2009 0 Comment

A deceitful self-respect marriage
Sharmila is an MBA working as an Assistant Manager in Karur Vysya Bank, and Samuel is an IPS officer serving in Indian Reserve Police Force as Commandant of the 13th Battalion in Jammu. Sharmila belongs to the Hindu Yadav community and Samuel belongs to the Christian Yadav community; both hail from Ramanathapuram District. Samuel and his parents misleadingly posed themselves as Hindu converts and convinced Sharmila and her family for an arranged marriage. The marriage sans Hindu customs was conducted in Dravidian style as a “self-respect marriage” in the presence of State Minister for Slum Clearance, Subha Thangavelu, on 2 February 2009 in Chennai.

Sharmila learnt of the Christian allegiance of her husband and his family only after the marriage, and later learnt more ‘facts’ about him. After living with him briefly at Ramanathapuram, Madurai (at Samuel’s friend’s place) and Jammu, she came to Chennai and lodged a complaint with the Commissioner of Police, alleged that Samuel had cheated and tortured her. Samuel in turn registered a complaint in Jammu saying Sharmila was a characterless woman. He maintained the same when summoned by the Chennai police after Sharmila’s complaint.

As Chennai police felt that the process of investigation and enquiry would prolong unduly as cases have been registered in both Jammu and Chennai, they decided to talk to both parties and find an amicable solution. This story was widely reported on 8 and 9 September by nearly all Chennai-based newspapers. 

As the law will take its course in the couple’s dispute, we need not opine on personal matters. However, there is an issue of ‘law’ concerning the state of Tamil Nadu in this matter, and it is our responsibility to place it in public domain to arrive at a proper solution. 

Samuel, as is now known, had posed as a ‘Hindu’ and the ‘self-respect’ marriage was conducted in the presence of state minister Subha Thangavelu. But later, when Sharmila talked of approaching the police, he threatened her saying the marriage would fail legal scrutiny as he was a Christian, and that he would use his influence with political leaders and police officers against her.

It is uncertain what kind of solution the police can find in this case, but it seems imperative that we expose the Dravidian farce called ‘self-respect’ marriage, which is totally contrary to the timeless Tamil Hindu tradition. We need to urgently bring the Dravidian cadres back to the Hindu fold by exposing how they lose their ‘self-respect’ through this kind of ridiculous practice in the name of ‘Tamil’ culture. 

EV Ramasamy and the ‘Self-Respect’ Movement

The self-respect movement was started by EV Ramasamy Naicker in 1925, with the objective of achieving ‘social justice’ by ensuring the human rights of backward classes and by motivating them to protect their ‘self-respect’. He felt that if a man develops self respect his individuality would grow and he need not be subservient to others. He believed banishing caste discrimination would lead to the attainment of self respect. 

EVR said self-respect was as valuable as life and its protection – and not Swaraj – was his birthright. He said Gandhi’s ‘Freedom Movement’ was useless and his ‘Self-Respect Movement’ alone would fetch ‘Freedom;’ only after attaining that freedom could we get ‘Political Independence’. He described it as ‘Arivu Viduthalai Iyakkam’ or a movement to liberate the intellect (Ref:

Though EVR projected eradication of caste discrimination and social justice as the objectives of his self-respect movement, he squarely blamed the Brahmin community for all social evils and called for the total annihilation of Hindu cultural practices and traditional rituals, saying they have been imposed on Tamils by Brahmins. In fact, he used his ‘self-respect’ movement only for his political interests through anti-Brahminism, and one strategy adopted was the so-called self-respect marriage.  

EVR and Self-Respect Marriages

The wedlock between Cho Murugappan and Maragathavalli (a widow) on 29 June 1929 was one of the early self-respect marriages conducted by EVR. When he arrived at the marriage hall, the bride and the groom exchanged rings and garlands and the groom took the vow, “I wholeheartedly accept Maragathavalli as my life partner. I will give her all the rights which I expect from her. We will live our life loving each other;” Maragathavalli took a similar vow. 

Another self-respect marriage took place between Indhiramani and Duraisamy, in Coimbatore. The wedding was over in five minutes; EVR ‘blessed’ the couple by speaking about his self-respect movement for fifty minutes! The speech included ‘rational’ diatribes against Brahmins and Hindu culture. The function was reported in his mouthpiece “Kudiyarasu” under the title, “A reformed wedding.” 

Then in another self-respect wedding between S. Kunjitham and S. Kurusamy in 1929, the bride and groom turned the marriage hall into a political stage and spoke about ‘self respect’ themselves! Kunjitham, who was ‘rationally eloquent’ in approach, talked about women’s liberation, “In the name of marriage our parents sell us like goats and cows to men who we don’t like. This is abject subservience and hence this so-called divine marriage must be rejected.”  

The self-respect marriage was propagated as a ritual beyond marriage addressing the sexual freedom of women, showing scant regard to chastity, with consistent emphasis on autonomy. While conveying his views on his pet project, EVR asked with rational passion, “Why must we invite God to our weddings? What is the relation between God and wedding? What is the necessity of God? When we go to a restaurant or latrine do we invite God then?” He added, “we should not call this ritual as ‘marriage’ or ‘Kanyadhaan’, but ‘Vaazhkai Oppantham’ (life-contract).”

Explaining the features of this life-contract, EVR said, “Everyone will agree that if two friends want to start a business they need to make a contract (partnership agreement)… So also running a life is like running a business. Just as you need to make efforts to start a business together, so also a man and woman must jointly create a relationship together and become bound to each other and make known to others that they live their life jointly. Bride and groom take their vow together and exchange garlands as a sign of their agreement and thus take their decision.” 

He gave the go-ahead for ‘divorce’, saying, “If the couple is of one mind and one life they may live together, but if they are not suited to each other, they have the right to separate and marry more suitable persons to live a pleasurable and happy life”. More ‘scintillating’ information can be gleaned from Mytheli Srinivas’ reader – Wives, widows and concubines: the conjugal family ideal in colonial India. 

The author is a freelancer 

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