The State government has decided to rename the Victoria Jubilee Town Hall, or VJT Hall, in the city after social reformer Ayyankali.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made the announcement on Wednesday at the hall after inaugurating the celebrations organised by the Kerala Dalit Federation to mark the 156th birth anniversary of Ayyankali. It was at the VJT Hall that Ayyankali, as a member of the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly, spoke up for the downtrodden. It is appropriate that the hall bears his name, Mr. Vijayan said. This is the State government’s desire, he added.
In recent years, there has been an increasing and strident demand for renaming the hall.
One of the best-known landmarks of the city, the VJT Hall was originally constructed to mark the 50th year of the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1896. The ruler of the erstwhile Travancore Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma inaugurated the hall on January 25, 1896.
Since then, it has stood witness to many events that shaped the history of this part of the country.
At 11 a.m. on October 22, 1904, the hall hosted the first meeting of the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly (Sri Mulam Praja Sabha) whose objective was “solely to give the people an opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Government their requirements, wishes or grievances on the one hand, and on the other, to make the policy and measures of the Government better known to the people so that all possible grounds of misconception in regard to the action of Government may be removed.”
Social reformers like Ayyankali and poet Kumaran Asan were among the notable members of the Sri Mulam Assembly. “The hall is important for the fact that it used to host both the Legislative Council and the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly. It also witnessed the agitations connected with the Travancore State Congress,” says journalist and historian Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan. Today, the hall continues to be in demand for political, literary, and cultural events. It also serves as a venue for expos, conferences, and inaugurations.
The State government has no intention of abandoning the efforts to strengthen renaissance values, the CM said.
The government is duty-bound to continue the mission until the historically downtrodden sections are integrated into the mainstream with full rights and self-respect and women empowerment becomes a reality. Until these targets are achieved, the renaissance movement has relevance, he said.