7 July 1859|
Madras Presidency, India
|Died||18 September 1945
Madras Presidency, India
Diwan Bahadur R. Srinivasan (1860–1945), also known as Rettamalai Srinivasan (Tamil: இரட்டைமலை சீனிவாசன்) was a Dalit activist, politician and freedom fighter from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He is a Dalit icon and Mahatma Gandhi’s close associate, remembered today as one of the pioneers of the Dalit movement in India.
Rettamalai Srinivasaparaiyar was born in 1860 in a poor Dalit (Paraiyar) family in Madras Presidency. He was a brother-in-law of the famous Dalit activist Iyothee Thass. He worked as a translator in a South African court when Gandhi was practicing there as an advocate; he was instrumental in the father of the nation putting his signature in Tamil as ‘Mo.Ka. Gandhi’ (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in Tamil).
Srinivasan established and led the Paraiyar Mahajana Sabha in 1891 which later became the Adi-Dravida Mahajana Sabha. He founded a Tamil newspaper called Paraiyan in October 1893 which started selling as a monthly with four pages for the price of four annas. However, Paraiyan experienced great difficulties in its early days.
Srinivasan was a participant in the freedom movement and an arrest warrant was issued against him claiming that he was fleeing the nation. In 1896, a case was filed against the newspaper and Srinivasan was dragged to the court citing a letter to the editor. The editor Srinivasan was fined Rs. 100 for his writings.
Rettamalai Srinivasan represented the Dalits in the first two round table conferences happened in London(In 1930,1931) along with Dalit leader Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. In 1932, Ambedkar, M. C. Rajah and Rettamalai Srinivasan joined the board of the Servants of Untouchables Society established by Mahatma Gandhi. However, shortly afterwards, the three of them withdrew from the Board. In 1939, with Ambedkar's support, he established the Madras Province Scheduled Castes' Federation.
Commemorative stamps have been issued in memory of Rettamalai Srinivasan by the Department of Posts of the Government of India. Cadres of the Viduthalai Siruthaigal party claimed to have discovered the remains of the Dalit leader in Otteri and constructed a memorial over his mortal remains and named it Urimai Kalam. On 6 July 2011, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had directed that his birth anniversary on 7 July be observed as a government function and ministers to honour him by garlanding his statue located inside Gandhi Mandapam, Chennai. Chief Minister Jayalailthaa has given a direction to this effect, according to an official release stated, The birth anniversary of Dalit leader Rettamalai Srinivasan (1859-1945) will be observed every year on 7 July by the State government.
His grandson B. Parameswaran became a minister in the Government of Tamil Nadu and a member of the Indian parliament.
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