…continuing from the previous issue
Following the burning of the venue of the black Shirt conference at Madurai, the Government of Madras proclaimed a ban on Black Shirt cadre, following which Periyar issued this statement.
Why should our comrades be arrested? Why should we not wear black attire? Why should we not fly our party flags? Should not the rulers tell us unequivocally? When people are bragging about right of speech and right of expression, do we not have the right to wear a shirt of our choice, to fly a flag we like, to reform our society in a peaceful manner, pointing out at our dishonor? Is it kingdom of Narasimha who came out of hiding behind a pillar or kingdom of Rama who killed Vali hiding himself behind a tree? Are we planning to usurp your government? Or are we trying to endanger your position? We are aware that our goal cannot be reached through political power or ministerial posts. Even if we come to power, considering the condition of our people today, we may not be able to carry on even as much reform as you have. Brahmins may induce the masses into riots. We keep silent even when our policies are condemned only in order to reform you people, to create public support for your reform and remind you of what you have left undone.
When my comrades thought of showing black flags to the ministers after Madurai and Salem incidents, I did not permit them do so. It is because of this that a rumour has been circulated that I keep meeting Omandurar secretly at a common place.
I have never met Omandurar after he became a minister. He is a good friend of mine, and an honest person. Yet I do not maintain any communication with him. I have had no contact with any minister. Yet a senior CID officer enquired of me if I had met Omandurar. A friend of mine told me that a responsible editor of a newspaper made the same enquiry with him.
The Brahmin group has become so much suspicious of this government. An Aryan paper writes, “Ramasami of Erode creates trouble by talking atheism. But Ramasami of Omandur creates trouble even while he is wearing sacred ash.” An indication that they feel so restless.
It is only to assuage their feelings and earn their goodwill that the rulers have let loose repression on us. It is not our conduct that is responsible for the present ban order, but the prodding given by the Brahmins to the government.
If we were to be told that there is no place here to those who are ashamed of their condition and they could run away from this country we would rather run away than leading a life of shame. Whichever party may come to power it is usual for it to retain an opposition for its own good. It will try to quell the opposition only when it perceives from it a threat to its own existence.
But we have unambiguously declared that we are not a political party and we have no intention of fighting elections, and have kept our word. Yet, the rulers try to destroy us, that too through unfair means. Because the Brahmin group does not want anyone to displease them in the least.
We do not want to be away from the ruling party. We are all Dravidians working in all the parties, Congress, Communist and the Socialist parties. I invite all of them to work together. All of you belong to the fourth caste, low caste, do you not? Do you not want to wipe off this dishonor? If all of you join us and cooperate with us to remove this inborn shame, can these caste disparities remain? Do your principles accept this discrimination? Then why this reluctance to join us with this single agenda?
You do not have to follow my path. You people suggest your own way to get rid of this shame, and we will all follow it. If we keep talking forever, how can we get results?
Is it not our responsibility to make the newly won independence to be of benefit to every citizen? That is why I want all the Dravidians, whichever party they are in, to get united and proclaim, “We are no more shameful people.” Since black has already been made a mark of shame, make everyone don it. If everyone dons it how can the government scare them?
The propaganda I carry on in the rural area it exposes the MLA’s of the area. They are unable to defend themselves. It is they who complain about me saying that I have exposed all their true colours. They fear that at this rate they might not be able to face the electorate. They ask the rulers to prevent me from meeting the public. The rulers will do something to prevent me from addressing the public. Soon they may arrest me. In that case do not try to get me out of prison. You should not come anywhere near the police station. What must you do then?
Everyone of you who feel sorry about it must wear black attire. You make your friends wear black. You must at least induce 10 out of 100 people to wear black. If you do it even now, the government will not dare take any action. Black attire must spread to all villages.
Every one of you must go to villages and pose these questions, “Why should caste discriminations exist? Why should there be Brahmins and panchamas – higher castes and lower castes? Is it fair to arrest the black shirt cadre who are trying to remove this disparity? Has a person got no right even to wear black to proclaim his own shame? You, who are put to shame by your lowly caste, and have to suffer on that account, you too wear black.” Explain all these things patiently and peacefully. Spread the message of peace and patience. Spread black attire in the smallest places. Take black cloth and black attire for sale.
Then only we can find out how many people esteem our policies. I want this to be the prime concern of our comrades.
Source: ‘Viduthalai’ 11th March 1948
Translated by Prof. A. Ayyasamy