Dakshayani Vellayudan was a Constituent assembly member elected from the Madras constituency. She was a parliamentarian and Dalit woman activist.
She was born 106 years ago on 15th July into a Dalit family in Kerala; Her family members were actively involved in the anti-caste movement. Later on Dakshayani too would engage in anti-caste activism - she was one of the first women from Pulaya community to wear an upper cloth and also earn a university degree - B.Sc Chemistry from Maharaja’s College.
At the age of 34, she was one of the youngest individuals elected to the Constituent Assembly where she made on several issues including forced labour, reservations, separate electorate for Dalits and untouchability.
Dakshayani was a staunch supporter of Gandhi and spent time at Gandhi's Wardha Ashram in 1940’s. During the discussion on Article 17 which deals with untouchability, she argued that Gandhi should get credit for influencing the nation’s attitude towards this practice. She believed that untouchability should be tackled through State propaganda and not through punishment.
When the Assembly debated the Objectives Resolution (precursor to Preamble of the Constitution), she observed “Communalism, whether Harijan, Christian, Muslim or Sikh, is opposed to nationalism”. According to her, the most essential guarantee for the betterment of Harijans was ‘moral safeguards’ – she believed that other measures would be redundant if the nation did not morally strive to uplift Harijans.
In the Assembly, Dakshayani pointed out that the British Government made no effort to improve the social conditions of Harijans in India – ‘Our freedom can be obtained only from Indians and not from the British Government’, she said. In this context, she made a personal plea to Ambedkar: she requested him to join the ‘nationalist forces’ for emancipation of Harijans. She believed that Harijans will be truly liberated in a “Socialist Republic India” and not by practising sectarianism or separatism.
‘Personally speaking, I am not in favour of any kind of reservation in any place whatsoever’, Dakshayani stated. She fiercely opposed separate electorates for Harijans – her position on separate electorates is significant since most of the minority members in the Assembly believed separate electorates were essential for protecting minority rights. She argued that Harijans are ‘economic slaves’ of upper castes, and therefore there is no point in demanding separate electorates; the focus must rather be on securing economic freedom. She insisted that Harijans should not stand apart from other communities instead work with them.
Dakshayani Vellayudan passed away on 20 July 1978.