Who founded the Self-Respect Movement?

By Devyani Singh|Updated : August 1st, 2022

The Self-Respect Movement was started in the Southern parts of India. The objective was to fight the Brahmanical oppression established by a social order that followed the varna system. The movement encouraged the backward castes to have ‘self-respect’ in the caste-based society they were born into that denied their basic human rights. 

Originally initiated by S Ramanathan in 1925, E V Ramaswamy aka Periyar was the one who founded the Self-Respect Movement. He spearheaded it in Tamil Nadu but it slowly spread to countries like Malaysia and Singapore that had a significant Tamil population settled or working there.

Self-Respect Movement

Periyar founded the Self-Respect Movement with the aim of instilling a separate individuality in the hearts and minds of those subjugated by the Brahmanical supremacy in the caste-based society of India. 

Caste discrimination has long been a social evil that India has struggled to rid itself of. Codified in the Manusmriti, it has eroded the society for hundreds of years by dividing it into sections based on birth and occupation. Brahmans acquired the highest position in the society as practitioners and learners of religion and Shudras acquired the lowest rung of the ladder as menial workers. 

Periyar’s ideology was simple. He was convinced the development of self-respect was directly connected to the development of individuality. This would have them refuse to be led by the nose and face humiliation by the members of the upper caste. He believed caste to be a mental prison and then a societal prison. One of his most popular quotes on Self-Respect was, "we are fit to think of 'self-respect' only when the notion of 'superior' and 'inferior' caste is banished from our land".

Periyar staunchly believed that self-respect was just as significant as life itself. He deemed swaraj to be political freedom and that was not a birthright for him. The protection of one’s self-respect was a birthright. He described the movement as Arivu Vidutalai Iyakkam, that is, a movement to liberate the intellect.

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FAQ’s on Self-Respect Movement

  • The Self-Respect Movement was founded by E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker. 

  • There were three key objectives of the Self-Respect Movement: 

    • The dissolution of Brahminical rule
    • Equality among the masses, hence, giving equal chances to the weaker sections and women in the society and workplace 
    • The resurrection of the Dravidian languages (Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Tamil)


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