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.

Vijay Asokan on Periyar in the EU, Periyarism and Ecology

Dr. Vijay Asokan, researcher in electron-microscopy, Chalmers University, Sweden is interviewed by Karthick Ram Manoharan for The Periyar Project. Excerpted and translated interview below. Full video interview in Tamil at the end.

Dr. Vijay Asokan, Chalmers University

The Periyar Project (TPP): What is the purpose of starting the European Periyar Ambedkar Comrades’ Association?

 Vijay Asokan (VA): The Tamil Nadu diaspora is growing in Europe only of late. Their settled population used to be much less when compared to other immigrant population of skilled labor. But this is the time when there are people from the age of 25 to 40 and there is a scope to create a space for politics. In social media, there is a lot of attention on Tamil Nadu and India… now there is an open space and arena. In parallel, in India the right-wing Hindutva forces are working vigorously at the level of politics, NGO, social engineering and so. That impact is there on Europe as well. They are also targeting the people in the similar age group. It is our opinion that Periyar is the right person to go to in order to counter the Hindu Right. Periyar and Ambedkar together would be the right weapons to take to the youth, to shape them politically, to build a positive politics for the India of the future.

TPP: The name of your association itself implies a form of solidarity among progressive groups. But you might be aware of other opinions. For instance, there are some who see Dr. Ambedkar as a leader of Dalits exclusively. There are others who see Periyar as a leader of the intermediate castes. How do you see this and how do you bring these two leaders together?

VA: Projecting Ambedkar as a leader of the Dalits alone is a calculated politics. It has been happening in India for a while, and in Tamil Nadu since the 1990s, especially through some writers and intellectuals, to show Ambedkar and Periyar as opposing forces. This is a need for Hindutva politics. In Tamil Nadu, there has been an opposition to this design from the Periyarists. The Periyarists refuted such writings since the 90s in newspapers and in political forums. Many Dalit activists are also of the opinion that they can let go of neither Periyar nor Ambedkar. There are some who are still rigid in placing them as opposites. But in the larger political framework, there is an understanding that Periyar and Ambedkar are inseparable. As an impact of this process in Tamil Nadu, we also feel that in Europe this solidarity must be maintained to counter divisive politics. Dr. Ambedkar is not for Dalits alone. He is an intellectual, a social architect, someone who created a model for social engineering. Periyar, who was his contemporary, has also said that Ambedkar is my leader. So those who travel the path of Periyar also accept Ambedkar as their leader. That is our outlook.

TPP: Are the youth of contemporary Tamil Nadu interested in Periyar? How do you think Periyar is relevant to contemporary Tamil Nadu?

VA: There is still an impact of Periyar. One key reason is that since there are forces strongly opposing Periyar there is also a reaction, a search for Periyar. When Periyar is seen as a fixed institution, then maybe the interest may decline, as is the case with other institutions. But only when there are opposing forces, there will be a competition, for the best to win. As the forces opposing Periyar have grown in the last ten years, so have the people reading and defending Periyar. As people read Periyar, they find out how false the accusations placed on him are. There is a new wave of interest in Periyar among the youth. For example, Vidiyal publishers released copies of Periyar: Indrum Endrum (which are selections from Periyar’s works). It is a top selling book despite it being a volume as big as an encyclopedia. Many of those who purchased it, if you look at Vidiyal’s records, were women. Another example, Periyar’s Why Were Women Enslaved book has been published as several editions and recently, it was also marketed targeting school children… His works are reaching a wider audience in this generation. This generation has a modern thinking. In a globalized world, India’s structure has changed, India’s social model has also changed. Tamil Nadu is far ahead than other states. There is a bigger population of educated, well-read people in the state. If you take the right literature to them, they will use it. Else, they will just neglect it. If we are able to take Periyar’s thoughts to this group, it is because of the growing aggression of Periyar’s opponents, and the increased need to take Periyar forward. People have started to think ‘Why do they want to attack Periyar? Why do they want to reject Periyar? Why do they take offense when Periyar is mentioned?’ That is why books on Periyar, discussions about Periyar on YouTube channels are becoming popular… The contemporary generation thinks that by reading Periyar they can compete in the contemporary political world. Many believe that Periyar is necessary to tackle politics today.

TPP: You have written a lot about ecological issues, like the protests against neutrino, methane projects in Tamil Nadu. Does a Periyarist perspective help to address this?

VA: Definitely. Periyarism influenced not only my involvement in environmental activism, but also my involvement in the Eelam issue. The fundamental concept of Periyarism is resistance to oppression. Whether it be his opposition to god, caste or religion, his core idea is resistance to oppression… When you compile his views and read systematically, he is totally a rebel against oppression. He opposed exploitation, he was a believer in equality, that power should be distributed equally. This is his totality. From here, I am inspired to support Eelam politics. One must support a struggle against oppression. Irrespective of whether the oppression is on the basis of caste, religion or nation, Periyarism holds that we must take the side of the oppressed. Likewise, in environmental issues. The methane project in Tamil Nadu is exploiting the land, disturbing the livelihoods of the people. It worsens their economic condition. In this, we can can take insights from the Periyarist opposition to North Indian economic exploitation of the South. This is also expressed in Anna who felt that when the North as a single economic-political entity will exploit the South. Kudankulam protest is not about economy. But the people there do not want the reactor on their land, they think it will be a danger to them, yet the powers want to impose it on them. When the powers are adamant, we need to stand on the side of the people. 

Disclaimer: The interview been excerpted, edited, and translated from the original Tamil interview with the interviewee’s consent. The views expressed by the interviewee are his own. The Periyar Project cannot be held responsible for the content of his views.