VAIKOM CAMPAIGN Mr. Ramaswami Naicker TREATMENT IN TRIVANDRUM JAIL
Sri Rajagopalachari writes : –
I am reliably informed that Mr.E.V.Ramaswami Naicker, now a Satyagraha prisoner in Trivandram Central Jail is being treated as an ordinary convict in the matter of diet and accommodation. He wears Jail clothes, and ankle iron and is confirmed in a solitary cell far away from the other Satyagraha prisoners. It is needless to say that Mr.Naicker is in excellent spirits inspite of all this. I have lived and moved with him and know him. He is an indomitable soul that has deliberately spurned the pleasures of wealth and position and chosen the hard and rugged path, not in form only like many of us, but in all reality. He welcomes the purifying trials to which he is subjected. So we need not be sad.
Perhaps the Travancore Government does not mean to subject a man of culture and position imprisoned for consciences sake to any harsh treatment, but measures culture and position by the English one, and the Academic Degrees attached to one’s name. I had a chance when last I was in Trivandram to see how the Vaikom prisoners were treated in prison. There was nothing to complain. I fact I was proud to ace civilisation in the treatment accorded to the gentlemen who chose to be prisoners in this Indian State for a great and good cause.
It was so different from experiences in British India regarding most political prisoners. But in Naicker’s case for some reason the Travancore Government appears to have gone wrong. It may be partly due to ignorance of Mr.Naicker’s status. But it is no excuse; civilised treatment is due to prisoners for conscience, irrespective of status. Mr.Naicker was asked to leave the district. He disobeyed most peacefully. The conviction itself is thoroughly illegal for without an incitement to violence or, the likelihood of it, disobedience by itself cannot be subject for criminal prosecution. But I may be wrong: – Whatever the legality, the object of the order of exterment must be held attained if the victim is kept in custody.
To condemn him to rigorous imprisonment and irons and jail clothing and to deprive him of all society to which other Satyagraha prisoners were rightly deemed entitled is totally injustifiable. The congratulations of Tami Nadu go to its brave President in the Trivandrum jail.
Mahatamaji has refused to advise withdrawal of the campaign. It has far been conducted with the utmost regard for non violence and dignity of conduct. In the midst of the flood distress in Travancore and the rest of Kerala and in the Tamil Nadu, it is hard to ask for money. But the ashram at Vaikom badly wants funds will some sympathisers help to send a thousand rupees. Not even if we have the most perfect political organisation and solved the problem of food and clothing, can we attain peaceful and true Swaraj if we do not get rid of this canker of untouchability.
Let no one confound it with inter-dining or inter-marriage or abolition of caste. The Vaikom campaign seeks no infliction of caste or creed. But no difference in caste or creed ought to make anyone untouchable or deprive one of the elementary rights of civic life. Remittances may be sent to Mr.Narayanan, M.A., B.L., Satyagraha Ashram Vaikom, or to Mr.A.K.Govinda Channan, Treasurer, same address.
Source : The Hindu – 4th September 1924
Rajagopalachari, the close associate of Periyar E.V.R., later became the Governor General of India after independence.