[On the occasion of Periyar‘s death anniversary (24th December), we remember him through some select quotes from his speeches and writings– Round Table India]
‘I, E.V. Ramaswamy, have taken upon myself the task of reforming Dravidian Society so that it shall be comparable to other societies of the world, in esteem and enlightenment, and I am solely devoted to that service.
I express, plainly and openly, thoughts which occur to me, and which strike me as right. This may embarrass a few; to some this may be distasteful; and a few others may even be irritated; however, all that I utter are proven truths and not lies.
It is my considered opinion that kings are redundant in the present-day world, and that they are demeaning to the self-respect of the people.
I am also one who says that besides kings, rich men, landed aristocracy, business, and Capitalists are groups that should be eliminated, as they are parasites on men.
Not that all the people of the world should act according to my wish, but that come what may, surely in polities and in public life, humane justice alone, and not justice as prescribed by any epoch or religion should be imposed: such is my desire.
I shall never be a party to doing anything by instigating others from behind. Even if I am thus inclined by any chance, I have not the capacity to do so. To act from behind, certain means and machinery are required, because I lack these, I have had not only to remain a servant of society throughout my life, but also to give expression to my views candidly, and to censure, where necessary, without fear or favour.
As far as I am concerned, I am never a party man. I have always been a man of principles.
In my public life, after I reached my years of discretion, I always volunteered to support the government of Non-Brahmins. In this, I did not see any dignity or indignity.
I had my strong conviction even from 1925 that superstition must be eradicated and that people should be turned into rationalists.
Till the end of my life, I shall never canvass for a vote. I shall not even expect a word of praise from any quarter.
I am one who has been ostracized by politics and religion. I have suffered pain and privation; sacrificed my self-esteem; and rejected a place in the ministry.
Indeed, it was my family and I who volunteered for the first time in India to court imprisonment for the sake of the freedom we cherish so dearly today.
I have supported whichever political party has done well to the society to which I belong, and opposed those that have done ill. I have not supported any party merely it is in power.
I serve only because I wish that our people and society should progress on par with other lands. In the best interest of society, therefore, I support those that are capable of doing well to our people, and those administrators who work for our social betterment.
I am under no necessity to permanently support anyone for gaining selfish ends. I see no wrong at all in supporting that person who does well to us, who strives for the removal of our social degradation even if he is a foreigner.
I have no (political) heirs. My principles and ideas are my heirs. My principles and ideas are my heirs. Heirs should evolve on their own.
Even if I were to live in a place where I would have to experience much worse sufferings than those of a hellish life, I would consider it a pleasanter life than this mean, caste-ridden existence, if only I were respected as a man there.
Gandhiji said: ‘If the untouchables are prevented from drawing water from a well, let separate wells be dug for them; if they are not allowed into the temple, let separate temples be built for them ‘. I said then: ‘if no amends are made for the abject humiliation that they cannot draw water from a well, let them then die of thirst. That they must be freed from this degradation is more important than the provision of water to save their lives.’
For how long are we still to remain ‘sudras’ and allow our progeny also to be ‘sudras’, in this world? Should we not do something to attain human dignity, devoid of our ills, at least in this generation, during this age of science, of scientific freedom? Is there a nobler deed than this for us? It is for this reason that I have dedicated the whole of my life for this cause: and not out of any perversity or spite.
Some say that eradication of caste is communalism, and hatred for the high-castes. Are we communalist? Have we ever harmed a single Brahmin, or set fire to a Brahmin locality? An appeal for the abolition of caste is not to be considered class-hatred.
The oppressed and backward people- toilers, coolies, poor men- who are treated like animals, are an eye-sore to me. This sorry sight can be removed only by their being made equal among men.
Though I am more than sixty years of age, my feelings are not as old, only because of my contact with the young. To do nothing is something my mind is never inclined to. Rest and boredom are suicide to me.
People all over the world should unite. They should have an existence that does no harm to other beings. Means must be found for a peaceful life, free from envy, care, deceit, hatred and sorrow. This is my cherished wish.
I am aware that my capacity is limited. But my love for humanity is boundless. That is why I am impelled to action and utterance beyond my position and capacity.
You conduct yourselves according to what you deem proper, after an inquiry aided by reason, this is what I call reform.
Do not think I am selfless. I am a very avaricious person. My desire and selfishness are boundless; I consider the welfare of the Dravidian society as my own welfare, and I toil solely for that ‘Selfishness’
Justice, and nothing else, is my justification.
Are my ideas admired or rejected?
Are they considered lofty or low? I do not bother. My life’s aim is that my views, however bitter they are to others, should only express truth.
From my tenth year onwards, (as far as I can remember), I have been an atheist. I have no faith in caste or rituals. In matters of public conduct, I am aware that others should not be pained or troubled; apart from this, I have little regard for proper conduct. Even though I am covetous of money and materials, I have earned them only through my resourcefulness and not by pecuniary dishonesty, or by betrayal of trust. I have never attempted to cheat anyone, even in the smallest matter. Even though I may have told lies in business deals, I have not told lies in public life, or consciously expressed opposing views. Why should a person like me carry enmity or ill-will to a particular community? I am one who ardently wishes to bring our land and society on a par with the character and culture of England. I consider, rightly or wrongly, that the Brahmin community is a stumbling block to this.
Should not the Brahmins then demonstrate that such is not the case? In fact, if only I had the support of the Brahmins, I would have found it possible to a large extent to bring about the advancement of our country.
I am one who lives just to see that the whole world is suffused with atheistic rationality.
My only goal is the welfare of the people.
I am no passionate seeker after power. Only, I have a fierce social consciousness. For the sake of the welfare of society, I am prepared in the days to come to give up anything.
I devote myself to service only for the reason that our people should gain in knowledge and live on a par with the peoples of the world.
You Decide for Yourselves
Decide for yourselves as to what you should think of those who say there is God, that He is the preserver of Justice and that He is the Protector of All, even after seeing that the practice of Unsociability, in the form of man being banned from human sight and contact, from walking in the street, from entering the temples and from drawing water from a tank, is rampant in a land and yet that land is spared from being razed by an earthquake, burnt by the fiery lava of a volcano, engulfed in a deluge from the ocean, submerged in the chasm of the earth, or fragmented by a thunder-storm.
Why is it that a foreigner is required to find out the height of the Himalayas, while we claim to have discovered the Seven Worlds above and the seven more below; why is it that when we claim to have the ability to expound Lord Nataraja’s Cosmic Dance, the construction of this simple loudspeaker in front of us is an enigma; we should really contemplate on these aspects. You should come forward to use reason to enlarge your general Knowledge.
Man is considered superior to other beings in this world, because he has limitless capacity for knowledge. People in other lands have advanced greatly, utilizing this knowledge. But our countrymen owing to lack of this knowledge are abjectly deteriorating. Stating that ours is a land of enlightenment, we build tanks and temples; in other lands, men fly in space and amaze the whole world.
In other lands, knowledge alone is respected and trusted and held as the basis of everything, but in this country, men believe only in rituals and ceremonies, in God, in religion and such other rubbish.
Knowledge, born of rationalisation, is real knowledge. Can mere bookish lore become knowledge? Can one become a genius through learning by rote? Why is it that educated persons endowed with the highest mental gifts- degree holders in general and science degree holders in particular- believe that a mere stone is a God and prostrate before it? Why do great savants and specialists in science anoint themselves with turbid water in order to expiate their sins? Are there any connections between the science they have learnt and the anointing mixture consisting of cow’s dung and urine?
The aeroplane is referred to in Ramayana and Mahabharata, but it flies by the power of magic. The aeroplane is explained in English literature, but it flies by mechanical power. What do we need now? Mechanical or magical energy?
Let us bring up two children of the same parents– one in England and the other, in our country. He who is reared in England will look at everything from a scientific point of view, and the other will consider everything from a religious point of view.
The reason for the present chaos and deterioration in our country is that we have been hindered from enquiry and cogitation and repressed from the use of rationality.
In whatever manner you surmise God, and with whatever good intentions you found a religion, the results are all the same. A reformist God and a rational religion cannot achieve anything more than a superstitious God and a blind religion.
Just as machines, invented for the social good of man, to give him added advantage and to save him labor and time, are under the control of the capitalists to keep the worker and the laborer in hunger- so reason that is to serve for the excellence, satisfaction and comfort of man has been enslaved by a few, to cause people pain, poverty and anxiety.
Activities that are not consonant with rational understanding, intellectual enquiry and human needs should not be carried on in the name of customs, traditions, God, religion, caste and class, or in any other name.
Man possesses reason. It is given to him for enquiry, not for blind animalism. It is by abusing reason that man has brought himself into a lot of troubles. He has created God, as an antidote to his troubles.
Uncertainties in life, dissatisfaction owing to wants and competition among individuals, if these exist in a country, then it is evident that her people do not have full powers of reason. In a country where people live freely and in contentment, it is clear that reason rules there
Man believes that he must gather wealth for his children who have the gift of reason, even by cheating his own society. But animals and birds do not save anything for their offspring who do not have the gift of reason; in fact they bite, peck and chase them away when the time comes for them to be on their own. They do not care for them or even remember them afterwards.
We are fit to think of ‘Self-respect’ only when the notion of superior and inferior caste is banished from our land.
Religion, politics, economics and social life in India are based only on class distinctions. That is why some live high and many are constrained to live low in society. People have also lost their sense of self-respect.
If any one wishes to serve society, on the basis of humanism, what he should do first is to make people think and conduct themselves rationally.
Because man has been compelled to have faith and trust in a mysterious God, he is now made to believe all the lies about Him.
Man does not grow by merely accepting whatever others have said. However, do listen to others, but later think with the help of your reason. Accept and try to follow what appears right to you.
The aim of a genuine self-respect movement is to change whatever appears to be adverse to man’s feelings of self-respect.
That which enslaves you to customs of the world to orthodoxy, to the rigours of religion, contrary to your rationality and awareness of truths of experience, is what I shall describe as antagonistic to self-respect.
This all-important awareness of self-respect, based on feelings of dignity and indignity, may be deemed man’s birth-right, as the word ‘man’ is itself a word based on dignity. Therefore, he who is called ‘man ‘ embodies dignity in himself, and only through his right to this dignity, reveals his human qualities. That is why ‘self-esteem is his birth-right’.
Man must remove by himself his feelings of inferiority, the feeling that he is lesser born than other beings, and attain self-confidence and self-respect.
On Social Reform
Books that advocate communal distinctions and complexes of superiority and inferiority should be prohibited from being read. If read, they should be confiscated.
Social reform cannot stand apart from politics, nor can politics stand apart from social reform. Politics exists only for human society. Every political active is only for social good. Constitutional law and defense are made only for society and in accordance with social good.
Offering alms and receiving alms should be deemed illegal, if human society should prosper without hindrance. Only then will man be able to live in self-respect.
The evils of religion, communalism, tradition and orthodoxy can never be eradicated from our land and society, unless the government creates what may be called a ‘Department for Defeating Superstitious Beliefs’ and through it facilitates propaganda against these evils in schools and public places and among students and the people.
The world today has no place for the meek, the poor, the innocent and the honest. Are we to wait for an opportune time to mend this condition?
It is important that communal distinctions, in the name of temples, are eradicated and that all the properties held in the name of temples are utilized for the welfare of the people.
History bears out that the threat of power has never stopped any reform. Social changes will always occur. People also will undergo social change.
Tentative and superficial changes here and there in the name of social reform will not bear fruit. The present social set-up should be destroyed at its very base, and a new social order, free from caste and class be created.
Though we have progressed and changed in the field of politics, we are still backward in the social field. This condition should change.
Ours is an obstinate society. Even after more than three-fourths of the people of the world have progressed, our society is still in a backward and barbaric stage, adamantly following customs of yore, because they have been adopted for a long time by its forebears.
Our society consists of many castes, religions and sects. The human and social distinctions that exist in our country should be put an end to. Without considering that someone else will bring about this change, each one of us should do something for our society.
Whomsoever I love or hate, my principle is the same. That is, the educated, the rich and the administrators should not suck the blood of the poor.
Those that pretend to serve the cause of social good for their selfish ends, without caring even a little for our society, are enemies of the Tamils, even if they are themselves Tamils.
In the village where you reside, some fifty people are affected by water-borne diseases and you discover that the well in the village contains the carrier-germs. Pumping out the water completely should clean the well. If the springs in the well are infected, then they should also be closed and a new well dug. If one insists on drinking the same infected water, then there is no escape for him from that disease. I am engaged in the task of stopping those springs in the well.
No individual who came forward to achieve social reform on the basis of religion has ever succeeded even to a small extent.
If the education, the rich and the administrators are opposed to the welfare of the toiling people and to their enjoying all the fruits of their labor, then they are only fit to disappear from the face of the earth.
Without an upheaval in our attitude to religion, caste, customs, traditions, orthodoxies, God, and commandments, which are the bases of social tyranny, no political reform will be of any use to the ordinary folk.
Is it necessary that there should be divisions of high (Brahmins) and low (Panchamas) castes in society? If it is said that God is responsible for this, should those of the lowly castes (panchamas and Sudras) worship Him?
If man objects to the use of machines, then it is evident, he is against the expansion of knowledge.
Look at the enormous change in our life today. Our comforts in daily life have vastly improved. Formerly, we had only the bullock cart. Now we have such modern comforts as the locomotive, the motor car, and aeroplane. We struck flints to make a fire, but now, the pressing of a button makes a thousand electric lights burn. Our people’s understanding, despite so much change in life, remains just as it was a thousand years ago!
Science exhibitions feature many modern flowerings of the imagination. Several new inventions, conductive to life’s comforts, would be displayed there. Sensitive instruments, obtained from many countries, would find a place at the exhibition. He, who enters at one end of the exhibition and comes out at the other, would have increased his knowledge in all fields. He sees and enjoys the world’s scientific advancement and attains clarity of understanding. He gets an opportunity to be aware of the many intricacies of research. He has the pleasure of seeing a number of wonderful equipments. In fine, within a few hours, he derives from that exhibition a maturity of knowledge that he would have to spend years at a University to acquire.
He who first created fire with the help of flints was the ‘Edison’ of those days. Thereafter, we advanced step by step and we now have fire through electricity. Thus, change is natural and inevitable, and no one can stop it.
On The Tirukural
People praise the Tirukural but in practice they cherish the Gita which is directly opposed to it!
Valluvar’s Kural is impelled by ideas that are in accordance with practical knowledge, and in tune with Nature and Science.
Those who study the Kural deeply will certainly attain a consciousness of self-respect. Knowledge of politics, knowledge of society and knowledge of economics are all embedded in it.
The Tirukural is a work that is so written as to teach society noble traits and proper conduct by pointing to a moral path and fostering ethical principles. That is why peoples of all religion, all over, adore the Kural as their work or as one that agrees with the principles of their religion.
It is my firm conviction that the kural was especially created to demonstrate that the arts, culture, ethics and conduct of the Tamils were vastly different from and antithetical to those of the Aryans.
Only because we regard Valluvar as a man, a great man, who strove for the removal of the ills of the people so that human qualities could be nurtured, we accept his kural. We do not accept it as divine utterance or inspired Apocalypse.
It is better to read ten kural for knowledge, than a hundred songs of kamba Ramayana or two hundred songs of periapurana, or kandapurana.
If any one asks you what your religion is, say that you belong to the ‘Valluvar Religion’ and if you are asked what your moral code is, say that it is the kural. The kural is so irrefutable that no conservative or crafty person will dare to oppose you.
The Tirukural will pave a lofty way for the eradication of superstition and the enlargement of knowledge. The thoughts of the kural should be spread throughout the country. It should be brought about that education means the learning of the kural and knowledge means, the awareness of the kural.
The author of the kural did not accept God, Heaven and Hell, You could find only Virtue, wealth and Love in the Kural; ‘Salvation’ and ‘Final Bliss’ are not alluded to by the author.
In the Kural, there is a chapter on invocation to God, but there is no place in it for principles of idol worship.
What should be done, if everyone is to have enough food?
If none consumes more than what is needed, then, there will be enough food for all.
All factories and their management should be Governmental, like the administration of the posts, the Telegraphs, the Railways and the public works. Not a single capitalist should exist in the country. No single individual should be our master.
The principle of communism should come into force in the present day world if people are to live in peace and contentment, free from worries and difficulties and from being deceived by each other. In this there is no place for luck. But our efforts should not bring about the least of personal suffering and desolation to the common folk.
Though my aim is to demand economic equality, I believe that coveting other people’s properties is an act that is worse than economic inequality. Therefore, it is the Government that should divide equitably by Law.
A single person should not have a vast, accumulated possession of land. A time will come when land will be distributed equally to all. If we cannot bring about the time soon, we should remain as path-finders in this.
If a condition free from tensions and discriminations is to be established, a pattern of socialism for all alike should be created. To bring this about, the right to property should be abolished and property should be held in common.
Capitalism should be destroyed at the roots, if the cares and worries of the workers are to be put an end to.
The final aims of communism is to usher in a world order in which the whole world is one family; al its peoples are kith and kin; and all the world’s wealth, its joys, comforts and pleasures belong to that family whose members have an equal share in the property.
The aim of offering succour to the poor is only to help to eradicate poverty from society, and not to create sluggards, by the offer of alms to one here, and another there.
Why were women prevented from receiving education?
It was to prevent their emancipation and to make them slaves under the pretext that they did not have intelligence and ability.
The way man treats women is much worse than the way landlords treat servants and the high-caste treat the low-caste.
These treat them so demeaningly only in situations mutually affecting them; but men treat women cruelly and as slaves, from their birth till death.
Women in India experience much worse suffering, humiliation and slavery in all spheres than even the untouchables.
Because we do not realize that the subjugation of women leads to social ruin, that society which should grow, goes on declining day by day, in spite of its capacity for reason.
Each woman should learn an appropriate profession for herself, so that she is able to earn. If she is able to eke out a living at least for herself, no husband will treat her as a slave.
A woman is for the male, a cook for himself; a maid for his house; a breeding farm for his family and a beautifully decorated doll to satisfy his aesthetic sense. Do enquire whether they have been used for any other purpose.
The slavery of women is only because of men. The belief of men that God created man with superior powers and woman to slave for him and woman’s traditional acceptance of it as truth are alone responsible for the growth of women’s slavery.
The boy and the girl are matched before marriage, not on a consideration of compatibility in appearance, mutual affection, proper understanding and similar education, but on whether the girl will be obedient and be a good slave to the boy, much in the same manner as we do when we buy cattle.
The implication of the sacred knot is that from the time it is tied, the boy accepts the girl as his slave, and she also agrees to be a slave to him. Thus, the husband can treat his wife in whatever manner he likes, and none has the right to question him, nor is there punishment for him if he misbehaves.
The women of today, despite their education, wealth, sophisticated knowledge, dignified relatives and a comfortable life, behave in a very conventional and backward manner, even worse than rustic girls and this causes us pain. How can there be human dignity in the children that are born to these women and brought up by them?
Our women should change from considering themselves as slaves by birth.
Women! Be brave! If you change, it is easy for your husbands and other men to change. Men throw the blame on you, saying that you are backward. Do not subject yourselves to that accusation. In future, instead of your being described, ‘she is so-and-so’s wife’, your husband must be described, ‘so-and-so is the husband of this lady’!
Women who are pampered by their husbands and who succumb to the craze for jewellery and apparel and to the appeal of feminine beauty and fashions, and those that are rich and proud, will be satisfied with their slavish existence, and they will not serve to reform the world .
Despite there being a Goddess of Learning and a Goddess of Wealth in Hindu religion, why do they not grant women their education and right to property?
Among the many reasons for the subjugation of women, the most important one is that they lack the right to property.
The tyranny of the male is the only reason for the absence of a separate world in our languages for describing the ‘Chastity’ of men.
The cruelty perpetuated in the name of chastity that a wife should put up with even the brutal act of the husband should be abolished.
If a woman can not have the right to property and the liberty to love whomsoever she chooses, what is she but a rubber-doll for the selfish use of man?
To insist that chastity is only for women and should not be insisted upon for men, is a philosophy based on individual ownership; the view that women is the property of the male determines the current status of a wife.
If our literature has all been written for the sake of justice and disciplined conduct, then, should not all the conditions imposed on women be applied to men too?
In this world, qualities like freedom and courage have been claimed solely as ‘masculine’. Men have concluded that these characterized the ‘superiority of the male’.
As long as male superiority survives in the world, the subjugation of women will continue. Until women put an end to the principle of male domination, it is certain that they will have no freedom.
To give man freedom of sexual selection, and to permit him to take as many wives as he likes, gives rise to promiscuity.
Others advocate birth-control, with a view to preserving the health of women and conserving family property; but we advocate it for the liberation of women.
If a man has the right to claim a woman, then women also should have the right to claim a man. If conditions are imposed for the worship of man by woman, let there be conditions imposed for the worship of woman by man.
Men’s ‘endeavour’ for the emancipation of women only perpetuates woman’s slavery and hampers their emancipation. The pretence of men that they respect women and that they strive for their freedom is only a ruse to deceive women. Have you ever seen anywhere a jackal freeing the hen and the lamp, or the cat freeing the rats, or the capitalists freeing the workers?
Do not train women for doing such slavish work as attending to household chores; decorating the floors; making cow-dung pats, washing utensils; group dancing ( Kummi ) and dancing with batons (Kolattam).
If there is no ‘high’ or ‘low’ by birth or by riches, there will also be no ‘high’ or ‘low’ among the rulers and the ruled. This is the apprehension of kings.
Members of the Assembly should consider the Government as a structure for social good, and as a true spokesman and representative of the people, and not as a means for power, or for occupying positions of honour.
The prevalent desire for the existence of a political administration to look after the good of the people is because the rich should not tyrannize over the poor, the bad should not disturb the good or the meek, and the hardy chieftains should not rob the common folk.
For a proper conduct of the administration, the administrators themselves should be honest. There should be a rule that those who break law and order, should be declared unfit for administration and be disqualified from contesting elections.
Only those who want to earn wealth by hook or crook become dignitaries, and only those who want to destroy socialism by any means are in the limelight. Such people should be prevented by law from finding a place in politics and in democratic rule and administration.
Politics does not concern itself with who should rule us. It is about what kind of rule people should have.
A nation or a society is governed in the interest of the welfare of the people of the land, and not the welfare of the administrator.
A Government that tries to transfer its own responsibilities to the people or their representatives is guilty of shirking its obligations, and evading its duties.
Whatever form of politics is introduced today in our country, it should be conducive to the creation of social equality and unity.
I would not call the rule of even a hideous brute a greater indignity or drawback, over a people who read with pious reverence the tale in the Ramayana that our lands was administered for 14 years by a pair of sandals.
Whether man or animal be ruling, my concern is only about the principles, the kind of administration and the benefits that the people derive.
The duty of officers is that they should serve the people honesty and impartially, and conduct themselves with sympathy and understanding.
As long as the rich and the poor exist, practices like bribery and beggary will never cease.
Only when the principle of capitalism goes, and communism comes into being, can corruption be put an end to. Without that, talking about the abolition of corruption is equivalent to preaching the laws of Manu.
A democratic life is that which should prevail among cultured people.
A revolution is that which destroys and changes from the base. Therefore, this society should bring about very drastic changes in the spheres of politics and religion.
The rule of the people is the true principle of democracy. There should be intelligent, and reasonably honest and disciplined people for such a ‘democracy’
Rightly or wrongly, there obtains in India a democratic rule. But party-rule makes a mockery of it. On seeing this, what will people of other nations think? Should not democrats be ashamed?
Everyone has the right to refute any opinion of any other person. But no one has the right to prevent the expression of that opinion.
Rivalry should last only till the election. Once it is over, both the ruling and opposition members should join hands to carry on the affairs of the Government. Only then some good can be done for the people.
None can declare that a country has secured political freedom unless it has achieved social reform and social unity.
Politics is a means to end social evils. Society does not need Politics that has no bearing on social work.
The real service through politics is to serve society.
If genuine Politics is to flourish, human qualities should be fostered. There should be discipline and honesty. People should feel the need for showing compassion to others.
If the Administration is not able to function properly, owing to party squabbles and agitations, it is only the people who will suffer.
Those who contrive to acquire money, fame and position through politics, are like a wasting disease of society.
People should contemplate whether our society is fit for freedom or democracy, in the context of frequent floor-crossings, plots to topple ministries, and the occurrence of lawlessness.’