A Dialogue about the Kural Conference

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

First Person: So, is this conference on the Kural being held so grandly only to confront the Brahmins?

Second Person: Why do you think so? We had conferences on Ramayana, Periya Puranam etc in the past. Were they held just to confront someone?

FP: Those conferences were about the literature value of those works.

SP: So you don’t think Kural is a work of literature?

FP: It is. But why do Brahmins chat in trams and buses that ‘Brahmin-hatred conference is being held in Broadway’?

SP: Brahmins do not approve of Kural. Kural has many messages against Brahminism. Thus they hate Kural very much. Because we are conducting the conference, Brahmins say that we would be discussing things that are against Brahminism.

FP: Is that all? They were talking as if they were struck by thunder. From what they spoke, I anticipate that we might have a ban on the conference.

SP: Never. But even if it did, let it happen.

FP: Then what would you do if they ban it?

SP: We will stop the conference. We are not the Dravidian Kazhagam to fight against Section 144.

FP: So, if you stop the conference and if they run their conference at the same place what would you do?

SP: What else can we do? We will inform the government that we are not conducting the conference but they are.

FP: Won’t the government hold you responsible?

SP: Let them. What else can they do to us? We will also become the Dravidian Kazhagam. 

FP: Then you might be put in jail?

SP: There is no place there.

FP: They will beat you up like how they did at Kumbakonam.

SP: Only if they can get hold of us. We would claim that we did not do the conference. How can they beat after that? We will go into hiding.

FP: Whatever will happen at the conference?

SP: What else would happen at a conference convened by Kalyana Sundaranar, Meenatchi Sundaranar, Somasundara Bharatiyar, Chakravarthy Nayinar, Kandasamy Mudaliar etc? Tell me.

FP: Why on earth do they want to conduct this conference? Please tell me. I’m asking you sincerely. There is no secret between us, isn’t it?

SP: Now we are talking. Our intentions are; First: We want to dismiss the idea that there are no moral texts for Dravidians and the belief that only the Mahabharata and Ramayana are the moral texts for Dravidians. We want to prove with facts that the moral codes for Aryans and Dravidians are different. To eradicate the differences among Dravidians that were created by Aryans, we want to dismiss the idea of many gods and we want to make everyone realize what should be the approach to the idea of god. To eliminate all superstitious beliefs and barbaric behavior among Dravidians in the name of morality, religion etc. We want harmony and solidarity among people. Second: The selfish slaves and the irrational idiots do vicious and foolish propaganda that ‘Dravidians and rationalists will destroy Tamil culture and Tamil literature and that they do not have any knowledge about our literature or culture.’ We want to prove them wrong and expose who these idiots, scoundrels and Aryan slaves really are in the conference that we want to conduct.

Today, for the Dravidians, including those illiterate, Kural is the only moral text. But this is forgotten by people like the high court judges, the prime minister, the commissioner, political leaders, god men, and even many Dravidians want to please the Brahmins and propagate the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Thiruvilaiyadal, and Periya Purana. We want to change this and want the public to denounce these texts. 

FP: So how did the Dravidar Kazhagam take part in this?

SP: Is there any particular group called the Dravidar Kazhagam? Excluding the ones that are mentioned above, that is, those who have greed for power, who are selfish, crooks, criminals who hide behind the puranas, the rest are all Dravidians.

FP: Is it so? After hearing the Brahmins in the tram, I thought this conference was about bashing the Brahmins. Only now do I understand about it. 

SP: Whenever a measure for the Dravidian people’s respect, welfare and progress is taken, the Brahmins cry foul saying that religion, god, literature, culture etc are all being ruined and only hatred is being sown against Brahmins. They pick the traitors and idiots from among us and make them join their drama. This is nothing new, this has been happening from the times of Skanda Purana or Ramayana. 

FP: Is it so? WIll anything change over just one conference?

SP: Let it change or not. What do we lose? Thousands of years of humiliation and ignorance is going to be there only for a little while more. In the future that our children will inherit, all these things, including the traitors among us, will vanish. In about ten years, if things do not change, the Dravidian land will turn into a communist land. Not the ‘underground’ kind, but a real communist country. So, if things do not change right away there is no loss.

FP: Well, let me take leave.

SP: Please do. 

Periyar’s satirical dialogue in the fictional name ‘Chithiraputhiran’. Published on Viduthalai on 12.01.1949.

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2015. Periyar Kalanjiyam 37: Thirukkural-Valluvar. [Periyar Repository 37: Thirukkural-Valluvar]. First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 87-91.

Ambedkar is an Extremist in Annihilating Caste!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

Ambedkar belongs to the world of great scholars. What is the reason for him to become such a great scholar? His education, talent etc. come only secondary. There are perhaps people who are more educated and more talented than him. So the reason why Ambedkar is a great intellectual is not only because of his education and talent, but also because we the people reap benefits from his intellect, while others use their learning for their own benefits.

Ambedkar is an atheist. Not just today, he has been an atheist for a very long time. Let me tell you one thing. All those who are true intellectuals in the world are all atheists. And only those who are atheists can research and be scientific and live as shining individuals. They are the ones to put their knowledge to use.

Dr. Ambedkar is a great scholar. And because of that he is a great atheist. He uses his original intellect to talk boldly about what he observes. In our country, those who are considered to be scholars are afraid of talking the truth. But Dr Ambedkar is nothing like them, he talks very boldly. 

Recently there was an incident that the entire world watched with awe. That is Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism. He has formally joined Buddhism now, but he has been a Buddhist for quite some time. 

Dr Ambedkar has rejected Hinduism for the past 20-30 years. When he talks about Gandhi, he says, ‘Gandhi is a staunch Hindu. He wants to protect Varnashrama and Manusmriti. What can he do for the Adi Dravidars?’ He thus attacked Gandhi, rejected the slokas of Varnashrama, and said that Gandhi is behaving this way only because he is a devout Hindu.

Ambedkar was into propagating the annihilation of caste from 1930-35. In Punjab they have created a forum for caste annihilation (I think it is called Jat Pat Todak mandal). They even added me as a member of it. The group had arranged for a meeting for eradicating caste and asked Ambedkar to head it. Ambedkar also agreed to head the meeting and wrote about 100 pages in English to be read out. Using facts, he has mentioned at many places that to annihilate caste we should reject Hinduism. Hearing about this, the members of the group had asked him to give the paper to them before he presented it. In the text, he had written categorically that Hinduism should be rejected. After reading it, they requested to him that, ‘Your keynote address is not appropriate to be read in our meeting. This is an organization that works for caste eradication and not for the removal of religion. So please remove the chapter in which you have mentioned about the rejection of Hinduism.’ Ambedkar replied, ‘Rejecting Hinduism is crucial to the annihilation of caste. We cannot exclude that in the talk. Hence, I cannot remove the chapter.’ Malaviya had tried to convince him. To which Ambedkar responded, ‘Let me talk what I have to talk in the keynote address. You can condemn my talk in the same meeting if you want. You can even make a resolution about it. I will address that in my endnote.’ The meeting never happened.

I asked Ambedkar to give me that speech and published that as a book in Tamil with the title Saathiyai Ozhikkum Vazhi. He was very committed to this idea for a long time. 

When we were only talking about Ramayanam in 1932, he had already burnt it. N Sivaraj was the head of that meeting. All of this has been reported in Kudiarasu

When he visited Chennai once and talked about The Gita, he said that it was nothing but gibberish. On hearing this, people like C.P. Ramasamy Iyer made noise saying that, ‘Talking ill of The Gita is atrocious. If Ambedkar as an individual had said this, it could be excusable. But not as a council member and not when visiting Chennai.’

I had invited Ambedkar to a meeting on social reform in Erode. RK Shanmugam Chettiyar gave the opening speech at the meeting. Ambedkar could not come for unknown reasons. MR Jayakkar had come instead. He spoke some words of appreciation and left. Had Ambedkar come, it would have been much better. 

Around that time, Ambedkar said that he wanted to convert to Islam. S Ramanathan and I immediately sent him a telegram from here. ‘Please don’t make a hasty decision. You should have at least one lakh people following you to get respect even there. Else, you might have to dance to the tune of the Maulanas. They claim that Islam is a perfect religion. Just doing prayers and other rituals will be like being in jail for you. If you go alone, there will not be any respect. If you are attacked, don’t you need support?’ we said in the telegram. Many other people also went to his house and had requested him not to convert. It was published in newspapers. He was very serious about converting to another religion. Finally, he chose Buddhism. 

But he was already a Buddha. 

I met him in Burma when we went for the World Buddhist conference. I was supposed to give a speech as per the program. But they had not informed me about it. I attended the meeting. But instead of me they asked someone else to give a speech. During this visit, Ambedkar said to me that we should formally convert to Buddhism today.  

‘Mysore Maharaja is very fascinated by the doctrine of Buddhism. Even I would like to settle down in Mysore. He has also agreed to give many acres of land. With all the resources that we have we could start a university instead of just talking until we die. Shouldn’t we do something significant before we die?’ Ambedkar said this and many other things. And he is living his words now. He has now boldly converted to Buddhism. And he made a statement after that. 

‘I will no longer accept Rama, Krishna, Siva, Indra as my gods anymore. I will not accept  their incarnations as my gods. I do not believe in idol worship. I do not believe in caste, moksha, hell etc. I do not believe in rituals around death, offerings and oblations. I will not perform them anymore.’ 

Whatever we reject or condemn today, he has already spoken about it. 

Ambedkar is a guide for the people. He has always been very outspoken in his criticisms of caste and religion. He worked for others selflessly. He is well known throughout India. He has shown a way to his people by converting to Buddhism. There is a chance that people from here might also convert. He has helped his community to attain education and employment. He has secured 15 percent reservations. 

He is a great leader by himself. There will not be another leader like him in future. He was a natural leader, anticipating an egalitarian time. After Ambedkar, there can be no other leader like him.

Periyar’s talk at Velore Municipal Council on 28-10-1956. Published on Viduthalai on 7-12-1956.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2010. Periyar Kalanjiyam 10: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (4). [Periyar Repository 10: Caste-Untouchability Part (4)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 190-194.

What is Civilization?

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

No matter how we approach the concept of ‘civilization’, we have to acknowledge the differences and changes in people’s activities, clothing habits, food habits, behavior, social relationships etc. in a large way. We cannot exactly say how this change has happened. Somehow everything adapts to change and keep going. 

Our women never used to wear blouses. Today, there are many styles of blouses. In the Western world, women’s clothing looked like one that swept the streets. To make their hip look thin, they wore dresses that looked like cones below their waist. Rich women used to have servants to hold their long dresses at the back. That was a time in civilization. Nowadays, the Western women wear much shorter clothes. This is also civilization.

When we talk about these things, we talk without any attachment, i.e., we should talk as freethinkers without having affiliation to caste, religion or nation so as to understand these changes better. Only then we will perceive the truth of it. 

Once upon a time, one needed to put sacred ash on the forehead and mutter ‘Siva Siva’ to pretend to be a person of good traits. We live in times where we make fun of such things. We ridicule such actions.

When we take husband-wife for instance, there used to be a time when only those wives who took abuse from their husband without complaint, who enslaved themselves to the husband and took care of his needs, were respected. But today, the wives challenge the husband if they are maids to do service to him, if they are enslaved creatures. The husbands should learn to behave well, else things won’t be nice. The wives of today who demand equal rights, equal freedom, and ask to be treated as equal partners are seen as cultured and civilized. 

Earlier, one had to talk about epics or religions to be known as learned and renowned. But today aren’t they ridiculed and seen as old-fashioned? Things that do not make sense were discussed before out of sheer ignorance and arrogance. But today we need rational explanations and we respect learned experts who can give scientific reasons for everything.

Civilization is nothing but what adapts to the context, the country and the times. It keeps changing. The behavior that evolves with the times is called civilized. And time does not hold on to old things. The new is born from the old and revolutionary change is inevitable. 

We talked about mustache, hair style etc. What we consider as civilization today eventually becomes indigestion. It moves towards another change.  

Such concepts sell through the smartness of speech. It can be anything – truth or lies, right or wrong. In the future there might be a situation where physical labor will reduce. It will be the way of life then. 

Why should we keep slogging always? Should rationally thinking beings slog? Should we earn our food only through hard labor? If we raise such questions, we can work for the progress of human society without much difficulty or sacrifice. This can be seen as a way of life and may benefit all. We used to think that nation-state, nationalism, patriotism were necessary for civilized behavior. But today civilization means we leave past all these things and talk about compassion and camaraderie among the world citizens.   

We ridicule today what was once a social practice. Man used to carry caste pride. He proudly claimed himself as either Nayakkan, or Mudaliar, or Vaishnavite or Saivite, and wanting to be up in the caste hierarchy through Saivite and Vaishnavite rituals, he wore the sacred thread, applied sacred ash in vertical or horizontal lines on his forehead and talked high of his beliefs. 

But today we condemn these practices as senseless and regressive. Once upon a time different thoughts were in practice. For example, vying for power by different castes and nations was appreciated greatly. But we started to realize today that anything that is good for one caste or one nation is evil for the other caste or the other nation.

Dear Comrades, I would like to stress on one particular thing here. We are growing as progressive beings through our matured experiences. We consider the wellbeing of all people through our informed thoughts. 

For example, we know that the businessmen hurt the welfare of others for their profits, that the usurers are the destroyers of humankind, and that religious fanatics bring misery to humankind.

I said earlier that civilization is a very complex thing. How could our women wear saree without wearing a belt to support it? How does it stay on their waist? And how could the women make a bun of their hair without a comb? Why are we spending money each day on our platter? We must be aware of Westerners who wonder at these things. If we do not realize what is right for us, we end up being mystified.

The affiliation we have towards our caste, relationships, language, nation – all of these make our thinking blunt. If this affiliation or affection is not gotten rid of, we cannot think of anything good. We cannot differentiate our right actions from the wrong. 

When Gandhiji visited abroad, he was adamant that he would only wear a knee-length dress. He suffered the cold in England (all for the pride of Indian values) without a proper dress. How is this even sensible? Can we call this an action of a sensible person? Can we make everyone do this? Is it even right to make everyone do this?

The world evolves with new thoughts and actions everyday. You should not fail to make use of what is best for you. Wear rationalism on your sleeves and think and strive for what is best for human kind. You will achieve success only through this.

Even those who were staunch believers of God started realizing that only hard work pays and they talk and act accordingly. Hence, you should be confident about yourselves and come forward to fight for the liberation of people with a rationalist approach.  

Those that are comforts, good deeds and necessities for the individual must be made available to every single person in the society, and this is what is called civilization. Such a concept of civilization can be seen as the yardstick to measure the progress of a society. This changes according to time and the scientific expansion of knowledge. What is civilization is nothing but that which makes peoples’ lives joyous.

Periyar’s 1933 speech on “The civilization that we see in India today” during his Europe tour. Published on Viduthalai on 9-2-1964.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2013. Periyar Kalanjiyam 34: Pagutharivu, Paagam (2). [Periyar Repository 34: Rationalism Part (2)]. First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 155-159.

Will the Enslavement of Women End?

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

A varied range of opinions about what type of education should be given to Indian women come from many quarters. Women however are not ready to accept the opinions of the reactionaries. They are only ready to accept progressive ideas.

“Indian women should continue to live without any opinions or freedoms of their own. In the spirit of the old saying ‘Whether stone or reed, it is my husband’, they should be sincerely committed to their husband and always think of what is best for him and yield children and raise them. This is the only way to a cultured life for Indian women. If they breach this, their respect in social life will get affected. This will lead to losing their pativrata (devotion to husband). The Indian culture will be spoiled. Hence it is enough if you provide education about family and religion to women,” so say the reactionaries. We don’t have to pay heed to men with this sort of opinion. Given their selfishness, we cannot expect any other better opinions from them. Any radical thought would surely endanger their selfishness.    

But if women also talk like this themselves, then we should be surprised. And we must consider if there is some sinister plan behind this.

A few days ago in Lyceum Club in London, during the annual day of Bombay Inter-Cultural Women’s Association, the head of The Madras Women’s Christian College, Ms Eleanor McDougall made an announcement. She said,

“It cannot be said that giving higher education to women will result in a positive outcome. Indian women are the best in faith and the strongest in willpower. They are very attached to their families. If they lose interest in the family, the value of life in the Indian society will go down. Hence, along with higher education, they should also be taught the highest values of Christian beliefs. If not, education will only bring evil to them.”

We cannot but pity the fact that even a woman like Ms McDougall from a progressive country had spoken like this. But given her supposed genuine concern over the social life of Indian women, we must assume that she has some sinister motive behind saying such things. And the motive is very clear in her words. They are, “With higher education, Christian values are to be taught.” Thus, this is clearly an agenda of a Chrisitan missionary to spread Christianity over here in India.

Just like how Ms McDougall thinks that Christian Education is important for Indian women in higher education, the Indian religious conservatives think that Hindu religious education is important for Indian women.

But we deny both these opinions. It is very wrong to think that women deserve only family life and are capable of raising children alone. As long as this belief exists, women can live only as slaves, that is, subservient to men. If women want to live an equal life with men, it is very important that they have the right to choose to pursue an education or a job as per their desire and talent. We believe that they should not be even aware of something as ‘religious education’. The men who are learned of religious texts remain enslaved, cowardly, superstitious and without self-belief. That’s why we are doing propaganda to uproot religion completely. In such a situation how can we endorse views that say women should be given religious education?

Even if they are not given religious education, through questioning and by observing practices, we can deduce the condition of the religious-minded Indian women in our society. Who can refuse the fact that it is only religion that keeps our women enslaved, backward, superstitious, ritualistic and cowardly? We cannot even slightly endorse the opinion that suggests women be given religious education.

“Like men, women should be given training to become physically strong. Women should be encouraged to be fit and be given training in weapons. They should have all the means and strength to protect themselves from savage men who are sexual predators. If needed, they should also join the army to fight the enemies.” This is how progressive minds think. Even women endorse such thoughts and opinions. When the world thinks this way, how can anyone claim that it is no use to give higher education to women? We acknowledge the fact that education in the present times is quite terrible. Education only helps one secure a job as a peon, it doesn’t help one acquire life skills. Henceforth, it is crucial to change the present education system and introduce a new one, without inculcating a belief in religion that makes people enslaved and cowardly, one that helps in learning life skills and fosters a spirit of equality between men and women.

First published in Kudiarasu on 17-7-1932.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 5: Pennurimai, Paagam (1). [Periyar Repository 5: Women’s Rights Part (1)]. Fourth Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 179-182.

Those who believe in caste and religion should not inaugurate the statue of Anna!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

In this country, birthdays are celebrated not just for those who were born or those who have departed but also for those who were never born, never died or never lived too. Such celebrations are used for propagating the ideas of those concerned. Our people view Raman, Krishnan, Kandhan, Ganapathy as gods and celebrate their birthdays. But we know that they were never born. God is a being that has no birth nor death. There is an insidious agenda to celebrate the birthdays of gods and those of the Nayanmaars, Aazhvaars, and other saints, which is to propagate their ideas.

This is why we celebrate the birthdays of those who served the country and its people, in order to take their ideas to the masses and encourage them to follow it. Likewise, we are inaugurating Anna’s image here because there is no other great man like him in the entire country. Anna was the only leader in the whole of India who dismissed god and also rejected religious literature like epics and puranas that were degrading. He did all this in a society that is as backward as ours, made the people realize their roots, won their votes through his ideas, and established a government.

From the times of Cheras, Cholas, Pandiyas to the recent rule of the Congress, none formed government by rejecting God, religion, and caste. From Gandhi to Kamaraj, everyone in the Congress party only tried to save religion, god and caste. The other political outfits, be it the Tamizharasu Katchi, the Democrats, RSS, Swatantra Party, or even those who claim to be most revolutionary, namely the Communist Party, each and everyone of them want to protect religion, god and caste. Anna is the only one who denounced these and declared that they are not necessary.

When Anna came into power, the Self-Respect marriage that was pronounced invalid by the courts was immediately made valid. Any Self-Respect marriage in the past, present or future that rejects religion and rituals has been made legal and valid by Anna in the assembly.

A law will soon be passed to allow anyone, including the oppressed castes, to perform rituals in the sanctum sanctorum of the temples. Tomorrow the bill will be passed for it in the assembly.

Anna has broken the gods. He has exposed vulgarity in the puranas and the epics in his writings. He has set ablaze the Kamba Ramayana. He highlighted the offensive portions of the epic and wrote Kambarasam in response. Only those who do not believe in religion or caste are worthy to inaugurate the image or statue of such a tall personality like Anna.   

If someone is not so, then it clearly means that such a person is greedy and is behind power. Anna is our greatest asset. We do not have such a government in the whole of India. There is no other party that has such manifestos. Only this government can eradicate the worst caste oppression. No other rule can do that.

Think about the condition of our people before the Self-Respect Movement and the Dravidian Movement. Out of hundred, only five were educated. They were given humiliating jobs. Because of our movement, today at least half of them are educated. Not only are Tamils placed at respectable jobs, there are also around 5-6 district collectors from our comrades in the Adi Dravidar community. Brahmins are not calling anyone as Shudras anymore.

The ideas of rationalism are our ideas. And they are “There is no god, there is no god, there is no god at all; He who invented god is a fool; He who propagates god is a scoundrel; He who worships god is a barbarian.” Soul’s salvation, hell, rebirth, the world above, all these ideas are propagated by scoundrels. And those who believe it are idiots. And those who benefit from such beliefs are the worst of scoundrels.

The idea of god was invented by man and introduced to man. It is not natural to man. Because of invention of god, the Brahmin claims himself to be superior. If we go by facts, Tamils did not have gods or religion. The gods that our people are worshipping have North Indian names. If Tamils had a god of our own, we should have had a Tamil name for it, isn’t it? Because there is none, we know that Tamils do not have gods.

Likewise, Tamils do not have religion too. The ‘Hindu religion’ is an Aryan religion. And Hinduism is not a religion. It is evident from this that Tamils do not have gods or religion.

While out of 100 people, 97 who do hard labor are called Shudras and live as the most oppressed by doing humiliating work like manual scavenging, without proper food or clothing, 3 out of the 100 eat sumptuous food and get fat, wear fancy clothes, and claim themselves to be upper caste. This is because of our people’s gullibility and their belief in god, religious superstitions.

How are we different from the Brahmin? How is he greater than us? Our people have to question why this difference exists. We plough the land. Our womenfolk sow the seeds. We do tough jobs like breaking stones. We weave clothes. We construct houses. Whatever are the basic needs of human society, we fulfill them through our hard labor. Despite doing everything for the society, we have been called Shudras, as unclean communities, and the least in the caste hierarchy. Without doing any of this work, but exploiting our naivety, the Brahmins who came to this land for survival, who are only 3% of the population, remain upper caste.

If we question the Brahmin on what basis he is the superior and we are all inferior Shudras, he responds that this has been laid down by god, rituals and religion. Only because god and religion exist, we live as Shudras, as oppressed, as lower castes. If we can abolish this, we can also get an opportunity to live an equal life, and that is why we encourage people to renounce god, religion, rituals, temples, myths, caste that keep us oppressed.

If only man had this wisdom and self-respect, he would have destroyed these things himself. Because we don’t have either, we remain oppressed. The Dravidar Kazhagam, the Self-Respect Movement, the DMK, the Rationalist movement are working towards inculcating such respect and wisdom in our people.

Periyar’s Speech at Karaikudi on 08-11-1970. First published in Viduthalai on 01-12-1970.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2010. Periyar Kalanjiyam 20: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (14). [Periyar Repository 20: Caste-Untouchability Part (14)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 66-70.

Communism cannot grow as long as Brahminism exists

– Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The laborers are in their state today only because they are born as Shudras and for no other reason. Are there any Brahmins who plough the soil? Do the Brahmins work with ploughs? No? How did they become a non-working class? Because as Brahmins, they are born into a caste that doesn’t need to work but can sit and eat. We are born as workers. Our work makes someone else flourish. We are lower-caste or Shudras. According to this setup, we are workers because we were assigned as such at our birth. Without confronting this, what is the point in just talking about ‘workers’ again and again? I’m asking this question to our communist heroes. Isn’t it their responsibility to talk about the fundamentals of this discrimination? Instead they brand the people who talk about this discrimination or the reasons of this discrimination as regressive and classist. Is it fair? 

If the communists claim that they are simply doing what has been followed in other countries, it is wrong. There is a huge difference between this country and others. There are no Brahmins or Paraiyars in other countries. There are no Gods, no religion, no culture, no practices that serve as the foundation for such a caste discrimination. The division of humans on this land as Brahmins and Paraiyars, where the Brahmins are the upper caste and the Paraiyars are a lower caste, is not known in other countries. Communists of other countries make their plans depending on the state of affairs and the nature of society in those countries. How is it fair to imitate the plan for another country in our very different situation, thinking that it would fit? 

Someone told me this recently. People from other countries do not know about the structure of this society nor what happens here. If people of today are unaware of the problems and issues here, how is it possible that Marx or Engels from a previous time could have known this?

Not only do they not know of this, they wouldn’t have imagined that there would be a country with such an arrangement where people born into one caste would get all benefits and people born into a different caste would be put through misery all their lives. When this is the case, just think how fraudulent it would be to say that their words should be exactly put into practice here. 

Ask (Josef) Stalin to say the words ‘Paarpaan’ (Brahmin) or ‘Paraiyan’. I don’t think he can even pronounce them right. Because there is no such differentiation in his country.

Comrades! Let me tell you another thing; Stalin has said recently “India needs to first have social reform and achieve social progress for communism to be born.” 

When I said the same thing, my dear communist friends blamed me for not knowing communism. Now Stalin has said the same thing. I’m eager to know what the communists have to say about it.

I’m not against communism or socialism. I have more commitment and interest in communism and socialism than others. But we must have a communism and socialism that is adapted to this country’s social needs. Unless and until the superiority of the Brahmins and Brahminism, which are most powerful and are fundamentally opposed to socialism or communism, are abolished in this country, communism or socialism cannot form here. Instead only Brahminism will get strengthened. 

Who heads the communist or the socialist party of this country? Only the Brahmins talk of communism or socialism. Who are they to teach communism to us? Do we believe that the communism they teach will change the discrimination in our lives? 

Despite knowing this, if you think that speaking out against caste differences is regressive  and classist, what is it but deception?

I challenge the communists to say that “It is not right that the brahmins are upper caste”. Likewise it is wrong that the others are lower caste. Let them also say that they will burn in the fire everything that is foundational for such discrimination. I will welcome that. But without doing that, if they say that we should not talk about these issues at all, what can we achieve then? How can we bring communism here?

Periyar’s speech at a public meeting at Perambur on 2-1-1953. First published in Viduthalai on 04-01-1953.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 9: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (3). [Periyar Repository 9: Caste-Untouchability Part (3)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 253-256.

My Next Plan

– Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

Man did not always have this specific mode of marriage (thirumana murai). If he had, there should have been a name to it at least. But alas, we are not familiar with any such name. Engagement (vivaagam), donation of a virgin bride (kannigadhaanam), choosing an auspicious time based on the stars (thaaramuhoortham), formal marriage (kalyanam), these are not the words to denote this mode of marriage. Each one of these words has its own meaning.

As he evolved, man modified the mode of marriage based on his intelligence and convenience. We have no proof that women were enslaved by men in this so-called husband-wife arrangement in the (pre-civilizational) past. But we do have enough proof that men and women loved each other equally and lived an equal life. The sexual attraction between man and woman is natural for the purpose of reproduction. When a man and a woman have sex out of love for each other, it is natural. But it is not natural that humans consider themselves only as husband and wife and struggle to maintain this concept all their life. This husband-wife concept emerged at a time when man’s cleverness grew and woman’s thought was suppressed. Man became more arrogant. He captured women and made them his servants. He made them his slaves. Only after this, this concept of husband-wife, one man for one woman etc came into practice.

My next plan is to prohibit marriage. What I say might surprise many of you.

In the past, even a young child who was still breastfeeding from her mother used to get married off. A thick shackle-like gold chain used to be put on her neck. If this happens today, it is illegal. It happened as per the rituals (shastras). But it cannot happen today per law. Today, many such practices that happened in the name of ritual became illegal by law. Until yesterday, even god was party to such practices. A man can marry as many wives as he wants, as many as 60000 wives. But today, a man can marry only one wife. He cannot marry another woman when his wife is still alive. A man marrying another woman when his wife is still alive has been made illegal, and thus, no one dares to do that.  And just like those practices permitted by religion and rituals became illegal today, marriage also will become illegal in the future.

Likewise, if we also make a law that only two children should be allowed in a marriage, no one will give birth beyond two. The government runs from pillar to post to promote family planning. If only it could pass laws that no jobs or promotions will be given to those who have more than two children, then no one will have more than two. The government should consider creating such laws.

We would like to do many things too. We were prohibited from thinking in the name of god, rituals and religion. Since man believed that thinking is a sin, for a long time he forgot that he can think. Since he forgot thinking, he also forgot his own power and the power of his knowledge. There is so much that can be achieved with the power of his knowledge. He is unaware of the wonders that he can see with this power. To make him realize this, all we have is our organization alone in our country.

Many lazy men have made us believe that family virtue is good virtue. A man who is born with a rational mind, is merely expected to to enslave a woman, give birth to a child with her, provide for the child, and in the process of providing, lose all his strength, and once he has lost everything, he is expected to be taken care of by his children and becomes a burden to them, not anymore a man with freedom and who is free of all troubles. Family is nothing but a burden.

Man travels to the moon today. Tomorrow he might even travel to the sun which is millions of miles away. “How can a man travel to such a hot place like the sun?”, one might wonder. If man develops the proper equipment to bear the heat, he can. We after all believe that the sun came down here without any such preparation and gave a child to Kunti. Why shouldn’t we then believe that we can travel to the same sun with proper preparations? We cannot predict the power of our knowledge in the future. We also cannot say that this will be its limit.

If we apply our rationalism, we realize that Tamils in the past did not live with such (marriage) arrangements among them. Manu Smriti says that the Tamils do not have the right to marry and live as husband-wife. All those born as shudras are only supposed to be slaves to the brahmins. All non-brahmin women are only supposed to be concubines to the brahmin men. They do not have the right to marry. Nor do they have the right to live as husband-wife.

If women want to come out of enslavement, they must study well. Without being economically dependent, they have to learn to earn on their own and lead their life themselves. Because they did not have the opportunities for this, they became slaves to men. They should be allowed to study until they are 20-22 years old. They take up such an occupation so as to lead their life independently. 

People who marry should stop being superstitious and start doing things rationally. They shouldn’t follow superstitions or celebrate religious rituals. It is best if they do not have children. If they cannot avoid it, they should stop with one or two. It is only difficult to give birth to a child, avoiding it is easy. Now, the government also supports this (family planning). The couple should make use of it. Human life is not about living for oneself, we must strive to work for humanity. That should be our ultimate goal. Marriage – husband – wife – family virtues, are human lives made for only these? Each one of us must think beyond these. A couple should live together as comrades, with equal rights.

Periyar’s speech at a marriage ceremony in Ambur on 21.08.1969. First published in Viduthalai on 01.09.1969.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2007. Periyar Kalanjiyam 24: Pennurimai, Paagam (5). First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 64-67.

A Rationalist!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

Leaders! Ladies! Comrades!

I’m glad for the opportunity to talk on the topic ‘North India – South India’ in the general meeting organised by the debating committee headed by Poet Sami Chidambaranar. I would like to say a few words about the debating committee before I proceed on the topic.

Debating literally means war through exchange of words. But this committee is not about that. Everyone will have space to express their opinions freely in the committee. That is the reason the secretary of the committee who welcomed us informed us that this committee is not affiliated to any particular political party, and anyone can express their opinions on anything, and thereby it aims to nurture the speech talent among common people. 

Hence, I would proclaim that this committee nurtures and values rationalism. In general, let alone the common man, even intellectuals say that rationalism, and that too a thorough rationalism, means only atheism. 

Everyone manipulates people’s reason. Even then, they restrict the use of rationalism in some issues. They even restrict themselves from being rational. Certain people who are allergic to rationalism, who engage in things against rationalism, people who blindly follow certain beliefs, who are benefited by such beliefs, say, ‘We shouldn’t use our rationalism on things like this. We should accept them as they are.’ If we question them for their superstitions, they respond, ‘You do not have the qualifications to be rational about this. While our ancestors have created certain beliefs about divinity after great contemplation, it is not fair for normal mortals like us to question such beliefs. If you question them, it only means lack of trust or atheism.’ 

But a true rationalist will look for reasons in anything and everything. There are only a very few people who are pure rationalists. The majority are believers.

It is because life in this world is constructed in such a way that it is entirely contradictory to nature. If we analyze them, most of the beliefs will be unfit for today’s life. Trying to rectify this might need the world’s structure to be changed in entirety. Hence, rationalism is a tougher choice for those who believe in such structures blindly or for those who are being benefited by these structures beyond their due. So, such beneficiaries must force superstitious beliefs on those below to keep them in a satisfied, contented state. Such superstitions are there in almost every walk of life, in professions, in experiences, in thoughts, binding a larger population. 

Since the common people oppose or discriminate against rationalists who are against superstitions, there is not much possibility of increase in numbers or influence of the rationalists, and hence they are very few. If only each one of us can think rationally and apply reason in every walk of life, the discrimination between humans, the inequalities, feelings of want, anxieties, undue rivalries would have no space here. 

In countries where people suffer inequalities, feel incomplete, are competing with others for selfish reasons, it is evident that such people do not live a rational life, while in places where it is evident that such lacks do not exist and people live a life of content, they are ruled by rationalism. 

For example, in countries like Russia where people do not have private competition, are not anxious, and are having an equal life with equal opportunities, it is only because rationalism rules there. And that is precisely the reason why others criticize that country for being a ‘rationalist country’ or an ‘atheist country’.

From this itself it is evident that theism and theistic countries nurture social inequalities, unequal opportunities, and jealousies and private competitions among people. 

Hence it is also evident that to get rid of such inequalities, inadequacies, and anxieties and to let people live an equal and peaceful life, god should be destroyed and atheism should be advocated. 

People do not have to destroy god, do not have to propagate atheism. If, with full consciousness, we are able to approach our experiences and our actions with rational thinking, god and theism will vanish for sure. To encourage such practices, that is, rational and critical thinking, such debating committees are very significant. That is why I wholeheartedly appreciate Amaindakarai’s debating committee. I request, therefore, that our youngsters, the Dravidians, the oppressed people, the backward sections, should support the committee and be immensely benefited by it.

Periyar’s speech at the Aminjikarai Debating Committee meeting on 31.01.1951. First published on Viduthalai 5-2-1951.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2013. Periyar Kalanjiyam 33: Pagutharivu, Paagam (1). First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 173-175.