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K. Kelappan

(1889 – 1971) – (Kerala)

Koyapalli Kelappan (Aged 82) born on August 24, 1889, was an Indian politician, independence activist, educationist, and journalist. He was the lead figure of the Indian National Congress in Kerala during the Indian independence movement and was popularly known as “Kerala Gandhi”. After Indian independence, he held various seats in Gandhian organizations. He was the founding member and president of the Nair Service Society and also founded the Kerala Kshetra Samrakshana Samiti (Temple Protection Movement).

Kelappan studied in Calicut and Madras, graduating from the University of Madras before starting his career as a teacher at St. Berchmans High School in Changanassery. He fought relentlessly against untouchability and caste-based discrimination, becoming the earliest person in Kerala, along with K. Kumar, to remove the suffix to his name that implied caste-status. He was called “Kerala Gandhi” for his labour in achieving social reforms and equality for all sections of the people.

Kelappan was a major influence on the Vaikom Satyagraha movement and later led the Guruvayur Satyagraha in 1932. During Gandhi’s visit to Travancore to commemorate the Temple Entry Proclamation, he seconded the most critical resolution reestablishing faith in Gandhiji’s leadership and the forward steps to be taken in conformity with the Gandhian approach to translate the spirit of the move for social equality.

After independence, he left the Congress Party and joined the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party. He was elected to Parliament from the Ponnani Lok Sabha seat in 1952. At the end of his term, he left active politics and became a Sarvodaya worker and was actively associated with the Bhoodan Movement in Kerala.

Kelappan helped start Mathrubhoomi and was its editor for a number of years. He worked for the unification of Kerala into a new linguistic state and was the president of many Gandhian organizations in Kerala. Towards the end of his life, Kelappan was involved in opposition against communal-based politics in his state, including the “Tali Temple Movement”. He passed away on October 7, 1971.