Self-Respect is the panacea for all the ills of human selfishness and greed. This not a cure for a political or a social or a cultural shortcoming but an everlasting solution to human exigencies and foibles … it is periyar who introduced this with a strong organizational foundation .
prof. S.F.N. Chelliah
For those statistically inclined; if approximately for about 20 percent of our population reads the writings and speeches of Periyar, will at least 20 per cent of them take the trouble of evaluating the rationale behind his arguments ? Left to me, this is too much to expect. Reason: Periyar is not an entertainer. Like Milton, he belongs to the race of demanding “fit audience though few”. In fact he needs very serious and discerning readership. Unfortunately most of those who read him are adversely affected by his blatant exposures of fraud and cheatings, and there has been a precarious tradition in the land of his birth to twist and turn all the most logical foundations he has so cautiously and meticulously established over many years. Periyar’s methodology is the most scientific and rational. He never makes any claim on assumptions and impressions. He always cites the authentic texts and references for all his arguments. If therefore anyone who challenges him or tries to disprove him has to be extremely precise and totally contextualised. All such persons have to bear in mind that Periyar is a totally different genre of a thinker. A famous historian mentions, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; but traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” In the writings and teachings of Periyar this axiom is fully exemplified.
Let us now examine a few examples.
The three most important basic tenets of Periyar are:–
Eradication of castes
The uniqueness about Periyar’s ways are, he thoroughly examines all the facts regarding any issue he takes up. He gets at the bottom of the issues identifies the root causes and arrives at most reasonable conclusions. Once he establishes the premises, he prescribes remedies in the most forthright ways, whatever might be the consequence. This is how all his prescriptions are most daring, pragmatic, impartial, rational and genuinely honest. These are the reasons why he appears like red rag to a bull to all those who have been exploiting the ignorant masses for ages and ages.
Equality among human beings should be the basic foundation on which any human civilization has to be built. Periyar found that the very basis on which Hinduism is founded is the philosophy of birth based discrimination of castes among people. This religion has innumerable concocted stories myths and religious texts to perpetuate, justify and patronize these inhuman practices. Such exploitations have been going on for thousands of years, supported and strengthened by infinite varieties of superstitious, senseless, irrational, inhuman, barbaric and intolerably immoral and perverted stories. Belief in such unreasonable fabrics of fraud and deceits for generation after generation had completely blunted the reasoning faculty of the 97 per cent of the population of this country and had kept them in irreversible bondage both in terms of reasoning and social status. Ignorance in bliss had been the main stay of their wretched condition. God and religion had been the most powerful agents of human degradation. Behind all these atrocities of social exploitations were the cunning vicious selfish motives of the 3 per cent of the national population that had been unduly enjoying all the fruits of their labour and hard work. To make matters worse these 3 per cent population has been keeping those who laboured and shed their blood to keep them in luxury and wealth as shudras meaning children of prostitutes. They built a religious theory that the shudras were the children of their concubines as all women are the concubines of those three per cent Brahmin men. .
All that Periyar did was to propound a sound school of ethics to question and eradicate these social atrocities. He realized that unless the belief in god and religion is eradicated, the indignity and insult heaped on the innocent majority cannot be wiped out. Such a genuine love of humanity was the main source of his inspiration. His rationalism and atheism are all the necessary tools to achieve his goals through agitations, protests meetings, conferences, writings and speeches. Now the question is: Has any believer in any religion in the history of India taken up such a pure selfless unquestionable sacrifice to preserve and safeguard the human dignity and benevolence? WHAT IS THEN WRONG IN THE ACTIVITIES OF PERIYAR? On what can anyone fault him?
Liberation of women
Discrimination of women in all the social activities is another version of caste discrimination that had been enjoying the blessings and patronage of the religion from the time immemorial. The rule of the jungle namely ‘might is right’ has been going on and on with no one ever having given any thought to it. All the religions of the world with no exception have had varieties of reasons justifications and philosophies but they all preserved a common agenda of keeping the women subjected to the male prerogative. All the religions said in one voice that women were the objects of pleasure for men and their slaves to serve men for their entire life. They used a powerful weapon to keep them eternally subjugated in the name of ‘chastity’ which was meticulously measured out only to women. Thali or mangal sutra was the external symbol of their slavery.
There appeared one great light to enlighten the eternal darkness in human history. Periyar twisted, turned and tortured the mammoth for the first time in the history of humanity. Yes. I dare say the first time in human history. Surely there had been great men in the past who have been strong spokespersons of liberation for women. But none of them has evolved such a comprehensive ideological philosophy stressing the urgency to at once enact women liberation from all angles. He went diametrically opposed to all the practices, beliefs and traditions that had been hitherto held as sacred, discarding them existing from the very beginning of human race that institutionalised discrimination against women.
In the life of Periyar, there was a strange incident reported about his wife. He had propagated that both the sexes should wear the same kind of dress in order to remove differences between sexes. She was wearing a lunghi and went out for normal activities, to the chuckles of the onlookers. Yes. What he preached he never failed to practice it himself however odd or difficult it might be. In order to enforce total equality between sexes, he recommended and introduced perhaps the most progressive changes in the society. Consequently he proposed, abolition of traditional marriages, equal rights to inherit the properties of the parents, equal opportunities in education and employment and abortion and divorce when needed which were hitherto unheard of in the annals of human progress. Remarriages of widows and eradication of polygamy were the most dramatic outcome of his agitations. In short, no social reformer had either before him or after him made such a giant leap in the area of equality of women. His definition of the sexual difference is breathtakingly and astonishingly original. He explains that the difference in sexes is purely a social making in the traditional set up. In our societies we bring up our children with two different sets of behavioural codes, dress, work ethics and so on. If the children are brought up in a situation without any of these differentiating codes, sexual differences might not be so obvious and defined. CAN ANY ONE OF THE CLAIMS MADE HERE BE CHALLENGED OR DISPUTED? Can anyone attribute injustice or prejudice or baseless policy in all the teachings of Periyar ?
If we have to choose the most lasting contribution of Periyar, without a second thought I would say it is his propounding of a comprehensive approach to Self Respect. Discriminations based on caste and gender may be solved in course of time and the caste is the unique curse on the Indian citizens. But the issue of respect among human beings will be an eternal issue. Where there are opportunities, humans are likely to covet them and may employ unfair and selfish means to snatch them. This is a normal human foible likely to be found among all those who are born humans. Therefore the prescription of Self Respect is the best remedy to this basic human evil to be found among the human races of all times. In this context self -respect is the panacea for all the ills of human selfishness and greed. This is not a cure for a political or a social or a cultural short coming but an everlasting solution to human exigencies and foibles. Once again it is Periyar who introduced this with a strong organisational foundation. Periyar has made innumerable contributions to the liberation and progress of the suppressed classes. The three I have mentioned are the most laudable ones. I AM CURIOUS TO KNOW FOR WHAT REASONS ONE CAN BLAME PERIYAR. HE DESERVES THE HIGHEST HONOUR OF THE GREATEST HUMAN INSTITUTION OF ALL TIMES.