M. C. Rajah
|Mylai Chinna Thambi Pillai Rajah|
17 June 1883|
St. Thomas Mount, Madras
|Died||20 August 1943
St. Thomas Mount, Madras
|Other names||M. C. Rajah|
|Alma mater||Madras Christian College|
|Occupation||Dalit rights activist, freedom fighter, politician|
Rajah was born to a poor Tamil family of Madras. He entered politics after graduation and was a leader of Paraiyars in the Justice Party. However, he quit the party in 1923 over the party's treatment of Dalits and allied with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar before parting ways over ideological differences. Rajah died in 1943. In his heyday, Rajah was considered to be a person equal in stature to Ambedkar. Rajah, along with Ambedkar and Rettamalai Srinivasan, represented the Dalits at the Second Round Table Conference in London.He fought for 30 percent reservations for dalits. He quit Justice Party about reservations. Later Sir KV Reddy took him as a cabinet minister in his interim government. He was follower of Sir KV Reddy Naidu in Anti-Brahmin Movement.
Rajah was born to Mylai Chinna Thambi Pillai in 1883 at St Thomas Mount, Madras, Chennai. Chinna Thambi Pillai was the manager of Lawrence Asylum. Rajah had his schooling at the Wesley Mission High School, Royapettah and Wesley College. He graduated from Madras Christian College and worked as a school master.
Rajah joined politics at an early age and was elected president of the Chingleput district board. In 1916, he became the Secretary of the Adi-Dravida Mahajana Sabha. He was one of the founder-members of the South Indian Liberal Federation. Rajah was elected to the Madras Legislative Council as a Justice Party candidate during the first general elections held in November 1920. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Justice Party in the house. Rajah was the first member of the Dalit community to be elected to the Madras Legislative Council. In 1922, Rajah passed a resolution demanding that the terms "Paraiya" and "Panchama" be dropped from official usage and instead be substituted with "Adi-Dravida" and "Adi-Andhra".
In 1921, the Justice Party government of the Raja of Panagal introduced reservations for backward classes in government jobs. However, this act did not allocate quotas for Dalits. Disenchanted, Rajah led a delegation of Dalits to protest the act and press their demand for inclusion. But the Justice Party did not respond. Instead, when riots broke out in Puliyanthope the same year, top-ranking Justice Party leaders regarded the Government's policy of appeasement of Dalits responsible for the strike. Outraged at this, Rajah quit the party in 1923. He remained a member of the Madras Legislative Council till 1926. In 1928, he created and became the president of the All India Depressed Castes Association. From 1926 till 1937, he was a member of the Imperial Legislative Assembly. During April–July 1937 he was the Madras Presidency's Minister for Development in the short lived interim provisional cabinet of Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu.
Parting of ways with Ambedkar
In 1932, M. C. Rajah concluded a pact with two members of the Indian National Congress, Dr. B. S. Moonje and Jadhav. According to this pact, Moonje offered reserved seats to scheduled castes in return for Rajah's support. This demand prompted B. R. Ambedkar to make an official demand for Separate electorates on an all-India basis.
By late 1935, Rajah had already decided not to support Dr. Ambedkar's intention of religious conversion from Hinduism. Rajah, as well as other Dalit leaders, felt that conversion from Hinduism would undermine the morale of Dalit and forward-caste Hindu activists engaged in a two-front war against both "upper"-cast reactionaries as well as the British.
Rajah died on 20 August 1943 at his house on "St. Thomas Mount", today named Rajah Street.
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