Dakshayani Velayudhan (1912-1978), the only dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly of India, was born in Kochi. She distinguished herself early in life as the first dalit woman in Kerala to obtain a college degree, which she remembers, was won in the face of continuing caste discrimination in college and outside. She worked as a teacher after her education and also served in the Cochin Legislative Council during 1945-48, actively participating in the debates. At the age of 34, she became a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly. Some of her legislative assembly debates have been included here,for example,this one.
[This is her speech in the discussion on Clause 11 of Interim Report on Fundamental Rights pertaining freedom from ‘Forced Labour’ as one of the Rights of Freedom, C.A.D., Vol. III, L.S.S., 1 May 1947, pp. 48-81. For this and other speeches by her in the Constituent Assembly, click here]
Shrimati Dakshayani Velayudan (Madras: General): Mr. President, I have great pleasure in commending Clause 11 because it is a clause which mostly relates to a community, a vast regiment of people who are subjected to untold miseries for so many centuries. Sir, even nowadays we find traffic in human beings in some parts of India and this clause will have a great effect on the underdogs of this land who will have a voice when India gets her independence. This clause will bring about an economic revolution in the fascist social structure existing in India. All the disabilities of the underdogs of this land are mainly due to the economic backwardness of the unfortunate brethren of the neglected community. It is unfortunate that a section of the people of this land will have to work without getting any remuneration whatsoever, even for their daily maintenance and the people who work in the fields or in other places will have to go back to their homes even without getting a single pie. They have not got the right to demand the wages even though they will work for day and night. If the people are called upon to work and if they do not go for that work they will get punishments. That is what we find in certain Provinces of India like the United Provinces. Even if there is not the system of ‘begar’ in other parts of India, almost a similar sort of compulsion exists throughout India and the majority of the people are subjected to exploitation, economical and in all sorts of ways. The underdogs of this land are deprived of the facilities that make life happy. This system ought to have been abolished even before the provinces got self-government. Even if regulations regarding this in certain provinces, the system still prevails and there are the people who are subjected to the system have no voice whatsoever in rules and deciding their fate. So, this clause when it comes into existence will give great relief to a great number of people who are subjected to economic exploitation. When this sort of economic exploitation is eliminated from this land, the underdogs also will rise up and will be in a position to assert their rights and keep up their self respect and dignity and they too will have a right to enjoy like the people belonging to the upper class and upper caste. I have great pleasure in supporting this clause.