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Bust of Valliamma Vandalised for the Umpteenth Time

By Ashok Ramsarup :: As the world observed the International Women’s Day, freedom fighters in South Africa have suffered another blow instead of reaping the benefits of social, economic, cultural and political achievements, they are mourning the destruction of the bust of a child activist.

Today the community of Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, condemned the defacement of the bust of ValliammaMunuswami Mudliar that was erected at Rose Park in the burgeoning township that was established for people of Indian origin during the apartheid era.

She was barely 10-years-old when she joined the father of modern-day liberation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Thumbie Naidoo to fight for the liberation of the people – better known as the Sathagraha Movement against the fangs of the British in the 1900s.

A disillusioned former Gauteng Tamil Federation  President NAD PILLAY, who came up with the idea of the bust of Valliamma, said it was a sad day in South Africa’s history as the bust of Valliamma had been vandalized for the umpteenth time.

Pillay said the erection of the bust which had been funded by community support was installed to highlight the plight of women in the country. Valliamma, who was castrated in prison suffered severe humiliation at a tender age. She died at the age of 16 after being released from prison in 1914.

“I always wondered why only certain individuals become known, be it in political or cultural structures. The question I asked at various platforms, including Eisteddfods where children showcase their talents with regard to Tamil Language, Music and Dance – was Mahatma Gandhi alone when he took up the freedom in South Africa?

“Whilst we know the history many understood that Gandhi was brought by merchants to fight the Traders Act which prohibited them to trade freely and restricted them to certain areas. It appears at the very same time the British Government only recognised Christian Marriages.  Young Valliamma was very disturbed and decided to walk with her mother, Gandhi, Naidoo and O.E Ali and other passive political resistors to protest against this very act that would have made Valliamma an Illegitimate child,” said Pillay.

Valliamma joined the Passive Resistance Movement campaigning vigorously in towns in Natal, including Dundee, Ladysmith Charlestown, Dannhauser, Tongaat, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. She was arrested when he crossed the Transvaal Border and conflicted with her mother in Volksrustin 1913.

International Women’s Day occurred a century ago, with the first gathering taking place in 1911 that was supported overwhelmingly by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

Pillay said this year’s theme for International Women’s Day focused on “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality. The main reason why this Bust, he said was utmost important that Valliamma was not given the recognition she deserved; it was like she played a very small role with this protest and marches.

“Also, we thought it was correct that not only recognise Valliamma,  but also future women leaders, including Professor Fatima Meer and Phyllis Naidoo who contributed to the liberation and freedom of the country,” Pillay stated.   Among the women honoured included  Winnie Mandala, Frene Ginwala, Barbara Hogan, Sofie De Bruyn, Judge Navaneethan Pillay,  Amma Naidoo, Thilimma Pillay, Maniben Sita, Mary Moodley, Amina Cachalia and Maisie Moodley

So one of the fundamental questions, Pillay asked why people or individuals not happy seeing Valliamma at Rose Park. He put it succinctly, that many people do not understand who Valliamma was:-

+ what she stood for;

+ how she fought for Liberation and Freedom;

+ and … what was her last words before passing away,

Pillay who heads the Valliamma Social Justice Committee was adamant that the main responsibility was to get Valliamma’sstruggle story better understood in South Africa and projects under the committee that stood against such as Drugs and Racism.

“Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no-one behind. Will Valliamma have stood behind when the politics of the country is going down,” asked Pillay.

Former Director of the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid Enugu Sreenivasulu Reddy said in a book that Valliamma was the most revered martyr of the 1913 Satyagraha Movement led by Gandhi.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦

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