Text of the Address to Chithode Reformist Organisation
on 2nd August 1931
This meeting has been organized on a festival day. Any other gathering on this day would have harangued on the legend connected with the festival and how the celebration leads to Heaven. But you have invited me who would make you disrespect the festival forever, and that is remarkable indeed.
The chairman of this meeting is an affluent person, very helpful, involved in matters of social and religious importance. If my speech is acceptable, the field of social reform stands to gain from the chairman. The villagers, chairman and me – we have moved together for many years. We have been in the same business and have even had monetary transactions. Only the chairman has come up in his chosen field of business. I have got into some other field. Even your chairman might have accomplished a lot if he had got into this field. I am no way better than him. If, after presiding over this meeting, he undergoes a change of heart the country will be greatly benefited. From the number of welcome addresses you have accorded me. I gratefully take it that you have accepted my principles and expect me to work more vigorously for them.
When you speak on ‘reform’ you have to think of many things like ‘Who needs reform?’ ‘Why reform’, ‘What kind of reform’, ‘How to determine that?’ ‘What are the impediments?’ ‘How to bring them into practice?’
If you think in these lines, you will conclude that you want Indians to reform and reform is connected with rationality and it is needed for attaining equality and liberty. You have to notice the goings on around you, use your reason, fight conservatism and bring about reform. Whatever reform you may think of, it has many forces opposed to it. They are age old practices, the words of ancestors, the words of divine beings, Vedic prescriptions, words of scriptures, tradition, implicit faith and so on.
Those who want to become reformists must have the right and the courage to examine all the above mentioned factors through their own knowledge and reasoning. Without it, if you were to say, ‘It may be right to some extent, but can we analyse religion, or god, or nationality, or mythology, or divine beings and their sayings? Are we qualified for such analysis?’ but such ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ are raised in any issue you can never undertake any reform. A reformist must have courage, faith in his reason and readiness to subject anything to examination. While the whole world has changed in this twentieth century only we devote our time to think of ‘Whom can we touch?’ With whom can we dine?’ and ‘What can we eat?’
People elsewhere are flying in the skies. But we carry our divine beings on our shoulders as if they were corpses. Those people manufacture new machinery and improve their lives. But our people go in search of what was used by our grandfathers and retrieve them from the attics.
The path of progress and reform has been entirely blocked for our people. People would rather give up their lives than turn in that direction. Our condition today is what our grandfathers found themselves in. Lazy people have been taught how to fill their bellies. We have been taught how to live out of other people’s earnings. These people will never come forward to change their way of life. So our own people are against our progress. These people will never allow India to progress, or to live with freedom. That is why they see to it that the masses never get educated or earn wealth. Many impediments have been created in the name of religion, god and nationality, and a mere 10 per cent of people keep cheating the other 90 per cent.
If one has to change this condition, all such falsehoods like god, religion, godliness and nationality must be exposed and destroyed. It is, however, extremely difficult to make our people come forward to do it. For, superstition and obstinacy have been ingrained in their nature. Moreover, people pursuing these fields for their livelihood and propagating them are growing in numbers every day. Unless people are once for all freed from the clutches of these persons, it is not easy to think of reform or progress.
Suppose we go to a Brahmin who is selling a piece of idly at 6 paise when its actual cost is half a paise, and tell him that it is wrong to think in terms of caste and all such customs are false, will he admit it? Will he not block the eradication of discrimination in the name of caste and religion? Will he not undertake to propagate religion? Similarly those lazybones who make their living in the name of god and nationality – will they allow their lies be exposed? Will they not, on the other hand, propagate religion and nationality? Though such obstacles and anti-propaganda in natural, they must be eradicated. Educated or illiterate, all our people are alike in this matter.
Suppose a non Brahmin keeps himself and his place as clean as possible, prepares 30 idlis from one measure of rice and sells them at a quarter of an anna a piece. Even then our so called intellectuals will not purchase them. On the other hand, suppose a Brahman, wearing dirty clothes, with his skin infected, with visible leucoderma and smelling of sweat all over, makes 60 idlies out of a measure of rice and sells them at half an anna each, we are ready to call him ‘sami’ and consume it as if it was a blessing from heaven. Not only the illiterate masses, even scholars and sophisticated aristocrats are not free from this.
So, find out who is against progress. The same condition prevails in the matter of God also. Man takes god as the antidote to all his misdeeds, and tries to use him as an escape route after having hurt others, cheated them and have profiteered from their misdeeds. They build temples, consecrate them and pour a lot of edible articles on the deity. There are people who make their living out of all this, without exerting themselves. Will these people who are encouraging all this ever expose the fraud in the name of god? Will they not be against such efforts? Will they not propagate god’s greatness?
Can we put down all those who are taken in by such happenings and those who support this one all stupid people? Just think.
Not at all. They are very smart – smart enough to make money by hood winking people as if by magical tricks. They use their cleverness and cunning, causing immense heartburn to lakhs of people, watching children, women, handicapped people wail in hunger, all the while being blind to all this, but spending in thousands and lacks in the name of god. Can we dismiss such acts as stupidity, ignorance or idiocy?
If the youth and grown-ups too ask questions like these and strive hard there is no doubt that reform will fast become a reality. The rest of the world has turned in the direction of reform. All of them laugh at India. But some encouraging signs are witnessed now. All that I appeal to you is do not obstruct them. Do not cause confusion by mixing reform with other tasks. First of all the reformists must eradicate castes. Let there be no difference between men and women, let all of them be treated alike. What is there that you cannot accomplish? All freedom will come straight to you. Without it, simple talk will not be of any use.
If someone were to start crying for nothing please do not join them. This weakness is the main obstacle to reform. First think and do what you think is right. Do not believe my words without putting them through thought process.
Source: ‘Kudi Arasu’ – 9th August 1931.
Translated by Prof. A.Ayyasamy