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:
Before going into the policies of Dravidar Kazhagam, I want to express a few words on the ban order proclaimed on the Black Shirt organization. Our provincial government has proclaimed Black Shirt organization as illegal. There is no such organization as a subsidiary of Dravidar Kazhagam or an independent entity. But on an occasion in the past we felt it would be useful to organize a Black Shirt volunteer corps and issued a statement. We put a few questions to the volunteers. “Will you be able to offer full time service to the organization? Or only when required? If full time, will you require any remuneration? Or will you take care of your own needs?” But before we collected the data, we gave up those efforts. Instead we made Black Shirt the symbol of our organization. We made it compulsory to some of our followers on certain occasions. We made an appeal to all the followers, men and women of Dravidar Kazhagam, to put on Black Shirt as indicative of shame and grief caused by the dishonor of our birth.
We pointed out to them the shame heaped on us in the law, tradition, customs, religious codes, and caste system. Black, we said, would be the symbol of that shame. Don Black, we asked, to proclaim that you have vowed to get rid of that shame. If someone were to ask you why you are wearing Black, you tell them, “I am told I am a Sudra as per the law and the scriptures, which means I am bastard of a Brahmin. I am not prepared to be so regarded. I am ashamed of it. I will strive to get rid of the dishonour. I Don Black as a mark of that. If you too feel so ashamed you too Don Black. If you do not feel the same way, there is no need for you to wear Black.”
If someone were to tease you saying, “Why are you wearing Black? Are you going to attend a funeral? Or are you a thief?”, you tell them that it is nothing like that. “This is a symbol of my endeavour to get rid of my dishonor. Are the lawyers who are clad in black and dispense justice, those who carry a black umbrella to protect themselves from heat and the school teachers – are they are going to attend a funeral? The graduates who attend convocation wearing black gowns, are they going to attend funeral? Or are they getting their degrees to commit robbery?”
People who listened to all this came forward in large numbers to wear Black Shirts. Youngsters came forward with zeal. Many started deeming it an honour to be seen in Black. Those people who never felt the shame and the selfish lot who make their living putting others to shame got rattled by this and decided to put an end to this practice. The Congress government who were handmaid of these people issued a ban on an imaginary Black Shirt Militia.
If it were really a militia how can old women and young babies join this? How can all these people who are in Black find a place in a militia? You should see the number of people who have come forward to Don Black to get rid of their inborn shame. That must lead to the realization of the real nature of our Movement. That is why we are urging more and more people to go in for black shirt. If black cloth had been available more freely thousands more of people would have put on black shirts. We have not specified any design for it. Any design would do. Women can wear at least a black blouse.
We have never told these people to give the slightest trouble to others. We have never told them to carry any weapon or even a stick. We have not made them undergo any drill. We have no trainers or training centres for that. If there are conferences or meetings, these men, women and children in Black would march in lines. Sometimes, they would get photographed with the dignitaries just for the heck of it. They would call it a Black Shirt Procession or with some such name. Apart from this no instance of their being non violent or their being instigated into violence can be cited.
“If someone were to ask you why you are wearing Black, you tell them, “I am told I am a Sudra as per the law and the scriptures, which means I am bastard of a Brahmin. I am not prepared to be so regarded. I am ashamed of it. I will strive to get rid of the dishonour. I don Black as a mark of that. If you too feel so ashamed you too don black”
The government might have had illusions of our being driven to doing something untoward if a ban is imposed. And they might have thought of dismantling the entire organization on that pretext. We are not so stupid as to attack our people using our own people. Should they not have thought of all this before slapping the ban? How long has this Movement been in existence? Can a single instance of this having given any trouble to the government be cited?
On the other hand, the government has given a lot of trouble to us. When the Madurai Black Shirt conference was in progress in 1932, some anti social elements set fire to our huge pandal in broad day light, at 12.30 p.m., and all the authorities including the district superintendent of police and the magistrate were mutely watching. If only they had acted a little, a loss worth of Rs.50,000 might have been avoided. They made some moves in the name of enquiry, which is still kept in the dark. Congress rowdies attacked our comrades at Sangithamangalam. Even the police recorded the names of the miscreants in their F.I.R. But no action has so far been taken against them. At Salem some rowdies threw soda bottles at our people. One of our comrades got hurt in the eye and was hospitalized for 20 days. And he lost his eyesight. He was fined TWO rupees on a nuisance charge. The students of Dravidar Kazhagam were subjected to a midnight attack at Annamalai University. The petitions against the miscreants were withdrawn and the victims are being prosecuted. Will any other government, even a tribal government, will be so tyrannical?
Have we not put up with all this?
When our comrades lost their cool, we have been advising them to be calm, since any clash would lead to our own people, on both the sides, being attacked. We have been advising them to maintain peace and win over the Congress Dravidians. Is the government unaware of all this? Can anybody cite an instance of our having behaved differently? I heard that Hon’ble Subbaroyan assured in the course of his speech in the AIR that they would not harm anyone who did not resort to violence, and I appreciated him for that in my platform speech. When I went home I received a telegram that six comrades were arrested and taken away for having put on black shirt and refusing to remove the black flag in the Kazhagam office. Had they flown the flag for creating trouble for the government? Why were they imprisoned? Have we not always been cooperating with all the acts of repression? Even during Rajagopalachari’s rule we did not oppose the prosecution. If you had decided to use repression, there are some formalities even for that. Do you know how many comrades have written to me today, before the Executive Committee met?
They have pleaded not to take any submissive decision and permit them to protect their honour. Do you know I did not even read out the letters in the meeting?
I am doing my utmost to be peaceful and understanding, but those in power are not prepared for that. Is this how those who have sworn in the name of Gandhi want to conduct themselves? If they feel that their position is endangered by a party, is this how they want to react? Within a month after Gandhi had been killed? Is this power permanent for them? Do they not have to meet the people after losing this power?
Many considered my grieving over Gandhi no more than crocodile tears. Let it be so. Only those evildoers who distributed sweets on Gandhi’s death may remain unaffected. They even felt happy. But I could not even contain my grief the moment I heard of his demise. I did not even know what I was doing. I kept walking for a long time in my 15’x15’ room. All because of the attachment I had for him in my heart of heart, the fruits of his policies and service. I had strong reservation regarding his methods, but none whatsoever in his concepts of truth, non violence and love. That is why I was shocked. No doubts I have misunderstanding with our ministers here. I am very angry too. All because they care only for power and pelf, with utter disregard for their own self respect and racial honour.
Will I not be shocked? I am angry at a chief minister who is a Dravidian permitting such a ban order to be passed. Even then can I take it lying down if he were to be done away with by a Brahmin like Vaidyanathayyar? Hon’ble Subbarayan is our own kinsman; however furious I am with him for having passed such a ban order on us, can I digest it if he were to be killed by a Varadachari? I am sore with Kamaraj, can he not correct matters? Yet if he were to be killed by a Godse, can I be a mere spectator? Is it Narasimha Rajya? Is it proper to treat us like enemies and pass such an order? Can a Dravidian bring himself to behave in this manner? Please think about it.
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.
Translated by Prof. A. Ayyasamy
Source: ‘Viduthalai’- 11th March 1948