Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu) has been a bastion of the Dravidian Movement since the days of Self Respect Movement. The momentous Dravidian Students’ Conference to mark the completion of 75 years of the Students Movement proved to be unique in more ways than one. The following is a synopsis of the Valedictory Address delivered by Asiriyar K.Veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam on 8th July 2018.
Even the birth in the year 1943 of Dravidian Students’ Association was turbulent, being born out of an agitation. Every event in the conference was in keeping with the tradition of the Dravidian Movement. The rally in the evening established that our youth are marching in the right direction. In all the events of the day, the poets’ forum, symposium and seminar, their reach was unparalleled, proving that they had been breathing Periyar all along and no one, however big and powerful they might be, could do anything to undermine the Movement, which would stay forever in the land of Periyar as an unshakeable presence. Let it be the Dravidian political wing or the social wing like our Dravidar Kazhagam, no opponent however powerful or influential they might be, can succeed in shaking it.
There was a time when elders used to teach the youth. But in this age of electronics we have to seek their help in operating the modern gadgets. They have become capable of imparting lessons to us. All that we have to do to them is to guide them to the proper path.
Just as these youngsters, I was hoisted on a table in my eleventh or twelfth year by my teacher Dravidamani and made to speak. It was in 1943, in a meeting at Cuddalore meant to collect funds for Arignar Anna’s Dravida Nadu weekly. I was made to stand on a table on that day as I was not tall enough. Even today I am standing on something, only instead of table I am standing on your shoulders. But, all of us are standing on Periyar’s shoulders which he has generously lent to all of us.
The students of today are facing a formidable problem, as never before in the past. There is a concerted attempt to wean today’s students back to Manudharma days. There is a paradox. Computer on one side, website on the other. Facebook, What’s app, twitter, e-mail, e-publishing and what not. All these products of human intelligence are used against science with twisted ideas.
The Dravidian Students’ Association was born out of a water pot containing drinking water. When the Dravidian students went to drink water from a water pot placed in the Government College, they were accosted by the Brahmins. “This pot is meant for us, Brahmins, and you should not touch this water, you born of a low caste,” they said.
When the students came out of the high school to join colleges, they all came together, without any awareness of their caste. But once they entered the portals of Kumbakonam Government College, they were made to feel the ferocity of Manu Dharma. “No matter whether you are an undergraduate or post graduate, you belong to a low caste. We have kept a separate water pot for you and your like.” So, this water kept separately made them think.
Many of you will be surprised to learn that not only the Dravidian Students’ Association, even Self Respect Movement was born out of water. Which was the library that Periyar got his knowledge from? Which Bodhi tree did he go in search of like Buddha, to acquire wisdom from? He got everything from his own experience.
There was a rebel boy, who could not be controlled at home. He was E.V.Ramasamy. His parents thought the school might bring him under some control. But he could never cross fourth standard. In the school pupils used to go out for drinking water. Since there was no water pot in the school, he went to a house in the street and asked for water.
It was a teacher’s house. The teacher belonged to a caste that was equivalent to that of boy Ramasamy. A girl brought water in a vessel and gave it to Ramasamy. When he was about to sip it, the woman said, “Don’t sip. Lift the vessel and pour water into your mouth.” When the boy Ramasamy tried to do so, water got into his nose and he was choked.
When he put the vessel down, the woman brought water in another vessel and sprinkled it on the first one before taking it in. Next day, during recess, Ramasamy went to different house. The occupants belonged to a community which came lower to Ramasamy’s in caste hierarchy. “We should not give water to you. If we do so, your parents will take us into task.” The boy assured them he would not tell his parents, got water, and was about to pour it into his mouth, when the woman said, “No need. You can sip it.” When he gave the vessel back, she took it in without washing, which he noticed.
This difference in their behaviour and treatment set him thinking. He remembered the women spoke of ‘caste’ and wondered why that was important when concern was all that was needed.
A similar thinking was stirred at the Government College at Kumbakonam when the Brahmins prevented the low caste students from taking water from their pot. Finally, the low caste students broke the pot to assert their self respect. This reaction was the result of their having breathed Periyar. So, don’t ever forget that the tears of the Dravidian race was wiped off, starting with the water vessel incident in Periyar’s school days.
That unparalleled free thinker of Periyar permitted the formation of a students’ forum, which, ultimately brought about such a revolution, and shaped many of the members to become rulers in future. It is precisely those who got trained in the students’ association brought about a great awakening in the Movement. Anna and Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi started thinking when they were in the student movement and finally ended up in Self Respect Movement.
The students of today are facing a formidable problem, as never before in the past. There is a concerted attempt to wean today’s students back to Manudharma days. There is a paradox. Computer on one side, website on the other. Facebook, What’s app, twitter, e-mail, e-publishing and what not. All these products of human intelligence are used against science with twisted ideas. Hence it is not enough if you need Periyar. You must breathe him. Many students have joined Dravidian Students’ Association. It is estimated that more than 2000 of them are going to take part in today’s rally.
I offer a tip to the old people who want to grow young. Exercises and tonic will not do. Move with people who are younger to you. Hold them tight and converse with them cheerfully. Periyar was a social scientist with no likes or dislikes of his own. He was against male domination. Though born in affluence he worried about those steeped in poverty. Though he was not born in a depressed family he was worried about the depressed, the oppressed, the marginalised and the exploited. Such a different person he was!
Listen to his exhortation to students. He reminds them that their education is not merely for their comfortable living. He wants them to look at his fellow Dravidians, who are relegated as sudras and their country is considered a nation of melechas and human rights are deprived to its people, what did the divine people, the lords, the scholars, those in position and authorities do? Did they do anything to those people who caused so much of misery to their countrymen? Did they at least put an end to their activities or their tools? How can we people, who are their descendents, not be filled with a sense of shame?
“But we are determined to execute the impossible, going against nature. The present is propitious enough for us. If we fail, no one can succeed. We have to strive no matter we win or lose. Wake up! Arise! Leave your private life behind! Instill our country with courage and pride. Raise the voice of self respect everywhere, in villages, hamlets, cities and suburbs. Belittle cowards and selfish wastrels! Let womenfolk become manly! Convert the lowly, the untouchables into first rate human! Don’t become family men before completing this task. Come to the battlefront” said Periyar on 15th April 1944.
After Ayya and Amma, (E.V.R. Maniammiar) when I assumed their responsibility I used to say, “I don’t want any thinking of my own, what I received from Periyar is enough.” People made fun of me on that. My own thinking could be selfish, avaricious, defective or unrestrained. But Periyar’s thinking was always for the society and used to weigh everything with reason. People like me are proving useful to the Movement today because we painstakingly shaped ourselves in accordance with Periyar thought.
Periyar uttered this guidelines in 1944. Only those people who came to this Movement after that, after Periyar and Anna, have succeeded in safeguarding the Movement after facing a number of tests and trials, changed the course of history and have brought about social revolution in the fields of education, employment and many other fields.
But sanatana would not give up. It is five thousand year old venom. They ask whether the increase in the number of people going to the temples and new temples being built does not indicate that your policy and propaganda have failed? No they have not failed. Were there thefts of so many idols in those days? Was there a special squad for preventing idol theft? How did the need for them arise today? Why are all the deities going away? The High Court asks the Government and the police to protect the gods. If they require protection how can they be called gods?
That is why Periyar said, ‘Forget God, Think of Human.’
Usually people flatter students. Periyar was different. He scanned the youngsters through his scanner and said: Students are good soldiers, but not trained generals. They must therefore subject themselves to discipline as in the army. The soldiers must have understood this even before joining the army. Freedom and liberty are entirely different things. When stopped by a red traffic signal, no one must exercise his freedom. Please remember, freedom is not license, licence is not freedom. There is difference between restriction and freedom.
“Just as parents are anxiously safeguarding their grown up daughter, students must protect their intellect and energy without expending them on wrong occasions,” said Periyar. This advice is as good in our computer age as it was in the age of mythology. Mobile phone is as intense an intoxicant as liquor, religion and power. Hence be resolute, be disciplined and be frugal, Periyar said.
What do students gain when they join Dravidar Kazhagam, people may ask. There is no gain, only loss if you join us. What will you lose?
You will lose your title of sudra and panchama which are marks of servility. Women’s servility will be lost. Superstition will run away, that is yet another loss. The conceit that makes you feel superior, caste distinctions and untouchability will be destroyed. That is one more loss. You will lose your chains that bind your hand and legs and even your intellect, and your mental aberrations will be cured, if you become rationalists. There is one more point you must enlighten yourselves on. The Dravidian Movement representing non Brahmins was born in 1944. But Dravidian Students’ Association was born in 1943, a year earlier. From then on people keep asking, “Why this name Dravidian? Why can’t we call ourselves Tamils?”
A Tamil gets his name though his language. Dravidian is the name of the race. Everyone who speaks Tamil language can be a Tamil, but not a Dravidian. One who is Dravidian by race can be called a Dravidian in spite of his religion and language.
Even a Brahmin can call himself a Tamil, mingle with us and scheme against us. But no Brahmin will ever call himself a Dravidian. Even if he comes forward to do so, he will have to give up all his customs, rituals, conceit and accept the Dravidian way of life.
What is the difference between Dravidianism and Aryanism?
Dravidianism says, All are equal by birth. Aryanism believes in Varnasrama and caste division.
Dravidianism gives prominence to reason and nationality.
Aryanism says, Believe, do not question. If you refuse to believe you will end up in hall.
Dravidian has unyielding confidence. “I can do anything”.
Aryanism shrinks in cowardice. “Nothing is in my hands”.
Dravidianism says, if you err you are sure to be punished.
Aryanism assures expiation, and encourages people to commit wrong deeds.
Dravidianism glorifies farmers as fundamental to the society.
Aryanism considers farming a sinful occupation.
Dravidianism insists on education to everyone.
Aryanism denies it to the sudras and low caste people.
Dravidianism is after heroic victories.
Aryanism tries to succeed through short cuts.
Dravidianism says, All for each.
Aryanism says, To everyone what is fixed for him / her.
Hence, work for the welfare of the Dravidians, Be steadfast, be fearless!
We will breathe Periyar and attain Prosperity.