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Harijan Leader

Ayyankali (1863 - 1914) was a leader of the Indian lower caste Dalits known as the Untouchables. He pioneered many reforms to improve the lifes of the Dalits. In 1937 he was praised by Mahatma Gandhi when he visited Venganoor, Ayyankali's home town. In November 1980, Indira Gandhi unveiled sculptor Ezra David's commorative statue of Ayyankali at Kawdiyar square, in Trivandrum.
Ayyankali was born in 1863 in Venganoor, Thiruvananthapuram, in the state of Kerala. He was one of seven children born to a Pulaya (caste) family. He was illiterate as were all Dalits at that time. In those days Dalits were not allowed to walk along public roads. The Dalit women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places. Ayyankali organized Dalits and fought against these discriminations. He was in the forefront of movements against castism. By 1900 Dalits were given the freedom to walk the public roads, and by 1914, Dalit children were allowed to join schools. Also, Dalit women were allowed to cover their nakedness in public through his efforts. He founded the Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham (Association for the Welfare of the Poor) in 1905, which succeeded in obtaining a six-day week for agricultural laborers. He was also nominated to the Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly of Travancore in 1910.

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