Saraswathi (born 1944) has fearlessly challenged atrocities by the state on women, Dalits, and society's other marginalized. She has encouraged and performed many inter-caste and widow marriages, and has played a significant role in building and strengthening women's movements and human rights activism in Tamil Nadu. Her opposition to the draconian Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, her support of the peace mission to Sri Lanka, and her campaign against capital punishment are particularly notable.
Saraswathi saw her mother suffering from the repressive customs and rituals that haunt widowhood. Even that young, she knew she would fight the oppressive social systems that made the life of many women a living hell. Saraswathi challenges atrocities by the state on women, Dalits, and the marginalized through fearless and vibrant oratorical and writing skills. Apart from encouraging and performing many inter-caste and widow remarriages, for 35 years, she has also been organizing and addressing press meetings, interfacing with government machineries, speaking at public meetings and other campaigns, and integrating social concerns with teaching. None of this has come without personal danger. When she addressed a public meeting to condemn state atrocities on Dalits in Tamil Nadu, she lost both her job as head of department of a government women's college, and her pension. She has also been arrested several times while staging peaceful demonstrations against repressive laws and state-sponsored violence. Saraswathi played a significant role in building and strengthening women's movements and human rights activism in Tamil Nadu: the iron-fisted Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act was withdrawn, the peace mission to Sri Lanka was strengthened, and her campaign against capital punishment helped save 26 lives. She is an inspiration to many, especially her students, many of whom have dedicated their lives to the fight for justice. "Women should have their own space," she says. "I think there should be a women's political party; that's my long-time dream."
Tamil Nadu Women's Forum Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Association Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Network