Krishnammal Jagannathan devoted her life in the mission of liberating Dalit women and their families from extreme misery in the Tanjore area. She helps them procure land for cultivation, thus ending their servile bondage to the landlords.
By providing land to the poor, she wanted to give them a means of livelihood and making their lives full of dignity. The ninety-year-old fighter is continuing her mission for last 35 years with unbelievable activeness.
In remote areas of Tamil Nadu, Krishnammal Jagannathan marshaled a silent revolution by distributing land to Dalit women. She received several awards as recognition for her incredible service to the poor. Such recognition includes Swami Pranavananda Peace Award from the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 1988, the Opus Award, the Padma Sri Award and Women’s World Summit Award from Switzerland in 1989. She also received the Right Livelihood Award(regarded as the Alternative Nobel Prize) in 2008 and many other prestigious honors.
She herself was born in 1926 to a landless Dalit family in Ayankottai in Dindugul district, Tamil Nadu in 1926. She was the fifth child among seven siblings and witnessed the social injustice and poverty at her young age through her mother who even at the advanced stage of pregnancy had to toil hard every day without receiving any sympathy.
As a Harijan woman in a caste ridden society, Krishnammal achieved a rare feat by completing university level education in spite of extreme poverty and involved herself in the Gandhian Sarvodaya Movement. During this movement, she met Sankaralingam Jagannathan, her husband. In 1968, while she was taking part in the padayatra of Vinoba Bhave, she got the news of the mass killing of 44 Harijan women and children at Kilavenmani due to disputes regarding wages with their landlord.
This horrific incident changed the direction of Krishnammal’s life and she decided to visit Kizhavenmani and stay there till the Dalits got their own land. Even after her husband’s death, she is continuing to spend her life by serving poorest populations of India. She is providing them employment and sustainable homes through non-violent movements against the overwhelming inequalities that exist in the caste system of our country.
Below is the video describing the struggle and activism of Krishnammal Jagannathan:
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