(The translated version of the Editorial, written by Periyar in Tamil and published in Kudi Arasu dated 26th February 1928)
We have been repeatedly warning that these are critical times when the Tamil people must be extremely cautious and think a lot before doing anything. Such occasions will come only once in 10 or 20 years. While on the one side Brahmins are indulging in many atrocities so that we may not make use of the opportunity, on the other side opportunists among the non Brahmins, blacklegs and traitors are indulging in treacherous acts that might spoil the entire country and bring ignominy on the entire society. These are times when the non Brahmins must be extremely vigilant.
A commission has been formed by the government for finding out the steps that must be taken for the development of our country and for finding out what reforms must be effected. It is the essential duty of the people to make the best use of the opportunity. Hence it will in no way be degrading for us to express our present plight and our needs to the commission. What is our present condition? What is our requirement? A social reform that must assure our self respect and unity or a political reform that would divide the country and put us to shame? We have already had a couple of political reforms which have brought us positions which we had not anticipated and have given us a fat salary of Rs.5500/- Rs. 6500/- or even Rs. 7500/-. The reforms have brought position of High Court judges and the like to people who were begging and soothsaying and who studied using municipal lamps. They have been made lords and governors.
It is not easy for us to say what more positions we should ask for. Only the offices of the King and Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief are left. The positions which have been offered so far, we only ferociously scramble for and no one refused to accept them.
Nationalism is different from politics. Nationalism depends on the enhancement of the self respect of a people. Many make their living by misinterpreting the concept. Politics is not about who rules the people, but about what kind of government we must have.
No political movement has rejected them. And we keep asking what progress the country has made. Can anyone say that we have got only the position and the salary and not the authority to use it? Our judges have enough authority to pass judgment on the possessions and the life of any individual. Not only that. Those who work to get us the judgment are able to make Rs.50,000 or even one lakh, taking advantage of the judicial machinery. There are legislative assemblies that enable us even to make laws. No one can dismiss them as useless. All shades of leaders are seated in these assemblies and are making laws not at their own pleasure, but as elected representatives of the people. All the 7 or 8 provincial assemblies and the central legislature have been constituted in such a way as to ensure greater representation for people, enough to defeat the government motion. They have at times been defeated in such manner.
Not only in the judiciary and the legislature, but also in the executive, we have large number of representatives. In Madras out of the chairman and seven members in the executive, five of them have to be Indians. Of these five, three have to enjoy the confidence of the people’s representatives. The other two are Indian dignitaries. These nominated members are prevented from resorting to undignified actions and safeguard their dignity by receiving a salary of Rs. 5550/- per month and allowances up to Rs. 1500/- and assured of a life of luxury. But out of all this, how have the various communities in the country or the country as a whole benefitted?
How has the arrangement benefited the poor, the farmers, the wage earness, the labourers or the merchants?
The benefit accrued to the poor can be gauged by the increasing nuisance of the beggars and the decline in morality. The farmers can be seen from all the lands going to the same individual, who has no knowledge of agriculture. The wage earners can be measured from the thousands of workers, along with their families, rushing to the ships anchored in the ports. As far as the labour is concerned, thousands of them are dismissed by the owners and are replaced with machinery, resulting in terms of thousands of them found on the streets.
If you take the administration, taxes are increasing every year, and have gone up from 40 crores to 165 crores, crores of amounts being siphoned abroad through our business ventures, and the graduates found on the streets without any job. The improvement in general morality can be seen through the increased number of courts and jails. The proof of social harmony is in the increase in the number of Hindu Muslim conflicts, Brahmin non-Brahmin skirmishes and communal disturbances.
Social development can be seen in the impediments felt in eradicating untouchability and unseeability, the removal of anti-untouchability and the equality programmes from the Congress, people being driven to the courts even for schooling and drawing water, and even that being denied very often by Indian officials themselves and the increase in the number of varnasrama and community conference.
Writings by Miss Mayo and a hundred others on the cultural development of the country, the hurdles faced in abolishing the proliferation of prostitution in the name of god and temples and the people of the upper castes and religious heads arguing that such attempts spell danger for Hinduism; when women take steps to pass an act for prevention of child marriages they are opposed by the upper caste people and political leaders; and when anyone tries for total eradication of such practices, the person is charged with blasphemy and sedition – are they not proof enough for our cultural development?
These are the benefits the Indian society has acquired through political reforms. If one thinks deeply on where will the country go with more such political reforms, one will come to the conclusion that they cannot take the country anywhere. No country can claim to have attained political freedom without having attained social reform at social unity.
Nationalism is different from politics. Nationalism depends on the enhancement of the self respect of a people. Many make their living by misinterpreting the concept. Politics is not about who rules the people, but about what kind of government we must have. Today’s politicians want a government that could assure their livelihood, and not one that would benefit the majority people of the country. As the means of honest livelihood have become scarce in our country, politics has become the livelihood of many. It has reached a stage when they have to betray the country and barter their self respect. Therefore, the country can never progress through the present political movements and the political reforms introduced by them. Even if they do not produce the expected results, social reforms are the need of the times.
Indian people are divided into many religions and there have been high and the low among them leading to conflicts resulting in constant segregation because there has been no social reform. No one can deny this. It is owing to the realization of this fact that many great men have been working for social reform. The political absurdities of today are caused by our social condition. We should not forget that those who predict that social reform will automatically follow political reform are first rate scoundrels. If one were to point out that one or two honest people may also be found among them, those few even if they were not scoundrels would certainly be stupid. We are sure of it.
Hence we must make use of the Royal Commission which has come to our country for bringing about social reform whether it is boycotting or welcoming, the purpose must be social reform and safeguarding self respect. If Sir John Simon were to call me and ask me whether I would prefer to receive the title of Viceroy or the removal of the epithet of sudra, I would prefer the latter. For, even those who have been conferred with governorship, membership of legislature or ministership could never get rid of the shame of being called sudras. Even after being qualified to be seated in the Indian legislature, Reverend M.C. Raja, born in the degraded community of pariahs, has not got the right to walk on the streets, worship in the temples or drink water from public water resources.
Then, what position or power will protect us from becoming sudras and enable us to live as humans? Will permit M.C.Raja to drink water from a public pond?
A word to those people who place their trust in the charlatans who assure us that everything will be all right once we get political freedom. That is, only when India was free and we had Ramarajya that manu dharma sastra was created. We were given the names of sudras and sandalas. Those who demanded rights to walk on public road were hoisted on spikes. Those who read Vedas and scriptures got their tongues cut off. Those who listened had molten lead poured into their ears. All this was recognized under the law. Even now, in the princely states of Mysore, Travancore and Cochin, Manu dharma is having a free sway.
Hence what we badly require at present is social progress and self respect. We caution people not to be hoodwinked by the words of liars and self servers.
Translated by : Prof. A. Ayyasamy