Both are Worse!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The discrimination that follows from notions of high and low among the human community based on birth, skin color, religion, or any other reason is worse than barbarism and such practices should be demolished. We have been saying at different occasions that getting equal rights and equal justice should be the ultimate goal of all people. 

While around the world, discriminations and differential treatment based on color is slowly changing, unfortunately, the discrimination based on one’s birth or one’s work still continues to exist in this subcontinent and is even legalized; worse, such discriminations are covered-up in order to turn them into a permanent affair.

Even the Whites are ready to change their laws and give up on racist practices; but in this country, whether the land is hit by a massive flood or devastated by an earthquake, people are adamant on not giving up such practices. 

Those who pay attention to the living condition of the common people here will understand the suffering they undergo based on how they are being discriminated against based on birth. 

We ask if someone can refuse the truth that people here are seen as untouchables, prevented from using the roads, discriminated against on the basis of the food they eat. Is it fair when prejudiced people of this country complain that the Whites are racists? One should note that discrimination based on one’s birth is worse than discrimination based on skin color.

The Whites have realized their blunder of being racists and are changing; they apparently have decided to supply weapons to the citizens of South Africa for self-defense. The racial discrimination in industries are slowly being eradicated in Canada. There is a news on 27th July 1941 that says that the woodworks union in America have decided to include all other unions without discrimination on color. The same news further says that based on this move, the union in Vancouver has decided to include Indians and the decision has been welcomed. 

Perhaps because of the turbulent times, they have realized the harm that befalls upon themselves due to ignorance and stupidity. But here in this country, if casteist and arrogant people have no mercy and have hearts of stone, how is it wrong if we say that they are worse than the racists?

It is only because racial discrimination was not eliminated, the biggest empires that spread across the world were shaken in the course of time. One could be glad that the realization dawned, even if very late. But unless racial discrimination is completely abolished, we believe that the worse effects it has left behind will take a long time to heal.  

Though one can deduce from their actions that the Whites have started regretting their mistakes, the ones from this country have still not realized the bigger mistake of discriminating against people in the name of caste and birth. It is by keeping us permanently divided on this basis that one class has been able to exercise dominance over us. We don’t realize that because of these divisions crores of our people are controlled by a minority group of people who rule over us. Worse, the common people fight against each other and reinstate the divisions between them.

By observing the developments in the world or at least by looking at how the Whites are strengthening themselves by giving up that which is discriminatory, shouldn’t we also have a change of mentality? It is not an honest approach to condemn others for their discriminatory practices while we continue to practice our own. The knowledgeable wouldn’t act this way. The world would only mock them saying ‘Look at your own mistakes before pointing fingers at others.’ So those who condemn racial discrimination should first come forward to annihilate the racial and caste discrimination in their own land, practiced by their own class. If only they are ready to do it, wouldn’t the miseries of this subcontinent vanish away?

Viduthalai  23.03.1942


Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 8: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (2). [Periyar Repository 8: Caste-Untouchability Part (2)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 183-185.

A Life of Slavery

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The ancient community of the Dravidians were enslaved by Aryans, a foreign people that settled here, and were degraded by being called sudras and panchamas by the latter and were thus unable to make any progress in their lives. The naïve Dravidians, who were illiterates and who were living as small groups without any communication between them due to lack of transportation, were easily cheated and enslaved by Aryans. 

The Aryans tactfully made the Dravidians accept their religion, which is devised exclusively for the former’s betterment, and through the same they disparaged the Dravidians.

In god, in religion, in education – in all institutions important for life – they forced their culture, through which they claimed themselves to be superior and they enslaved us. They deceived us into accepting that we are inferiors in the name of god and religion. It is therefore crucial for the Dravidian Kazhagam to free people from such deception.

This is why we relentlessly preach to the Dravidians that, “You should destroy the god that you are not allowed to touch; You should reject the religion that has turned you into sudras and panchamas; You should dispose the texts of shastras or puranas that treat you as lesser beings.”

We are not saying that the god who is non-discriminatory and teaches people good virtues, the religion that leads people in the righteous path, the shastras and the puranas that insist people to be just and honest, should be denounced. We only say that the religion and the god and its shastras that humiliate the innocent Dravidians who are made to starve, who are not rewarded for their hard work and are thus exploited, should be criticized. As long as the Dravidians remain oppressed they would never be given opportunities nor benefits. The Justice Party in its inception understood this, and later the Self-Respect Movement was started to remove this shameful situation. 

Only after the formation of the Self-Respect Movement did the Dravidians start to gain respect. They started to think about the caste degradation that has been forced on them. Even though there were many Alwars and Nayanmars in the past, none of them seem to have bothered about caste oppression. They did not care about how Aryan culture has kept us oppressed. Instead, they have glorified it in their songs. In the records of the Aryans, we have proof that some Dravidian Kings were against Aryan culture. There are stories where kings like Iraniyan, Ravanan were demonized and were shown as criminals, and immoral tyrants, and how they were tactfully killed by the Aryan kings. The stories of their slayings are celebrated in epics, religious texts and as religious festivals, so that no would breathe a word of opposition against the Aryans ever. Later, the Buddhists and the Jains tried to fight against Aryans but they were destroyed too.

Many Dravidian Tamil scholars have opposed this. But they were also turned into saints and Siddhars and their arguments were sidelined. Valluvar who wrote the Thirukkural had opposed this to a very great extent. But his works were translated wrongly. Today, we are the ones to take over this struggle. When we say we demand for annihilation of caste supremacy, it doesn’t mean calling for annihilation of Brahmins themselves. 

Brahminism which is an Aryan culture has to be annihilated because it is the reason for caste discrimination. We are only against Brahminism and not the Brahmins.

All of this is suppressed in today’s regime. The outsiders from the North are made into leaders. The reason that the wealth of this country is owned by the outsiders and those who are hand-in-glove with the rulers is because these Northerners have the liberty to exploit our wealth as they wish. Since religious beliefs are protected, it has given way for some to claim themselves as superior, even superior by birth. 

There are claims that untouchability has been abolished. But the truth is that the ‘abolition of untouchability’ is in the same state today as it was under the Justice Party 27 years back. 

The Justice Party made rules for everyone to have the right to use roads before 1923 itself. It was only the Brahmins and the Congressmen who prevented this then. But today, they claim our measures to be theirs. But ‘untouchability’ with respect to religion, the right to conduct rituals, to give food to idols, and loot money given for prayers, is still in the control of the Brahmins alone. In the name of God, they continue to claim rights to loot and enjoy free food without doing any work.

Also, it is claimed that ‘untouchability has been abolished’. But the very basis of the untouchability, which is caste discrimination, is still allowed. The religion which is the reason for caste discrimination is untouched and so are the rights for this religion. All the superstitions like temple-chariot processions, weddings of the gods etc. in which money, knowledge and materials are being wasted, are being validated. There is still support for cheating and fraud in ‘His’ name.

Periyar’s speech at a general meeting in Karur on 01-01-1950. Published on Viduthalai on 04.02.1950.


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, pp. 174-177.

Marguerite Ross Barnett (1942-1992)

By University of Houston – Head shot of Marguerite Ross Barnett, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8538267

Marguerite Ross Barnett was born on 21 May 1942. Her Wikipedia page informs us that she was was the first Black woman to lead a major American university, as chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis from 1986 to 1990. Barnett had a PhD from Chicago and taught at Chicago, Princeton, Howard and Columbia. She was the also first Black academic to study the Dravidian Movement and her book The Politics of Cultural Nationalism in South India (1976) is a rigorous academic study of the complex interplay of region, caste and ideas in Tamil Nadu. Her book credits Periyar as being chiefly responsible for radicalizing the Dravidian Movement and identifies him as a key influencer in the politics of the state. The book is an objective, methodical and critical study of Dravidian politics and a must read for those interested in the subject. Barnett’s book was written soon after the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam captured power in 1967 and is a historical record of the personalities, events and processes that shaped the post-independence politics of Tamil Nadu.

-Karthick Ram Manoharan

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.

Online Meeting on ‘Rethinking Social Justice’

The Dravidian Professionals Forum organized a meeting on 17 March 2021 to discuss the volume Rethinking Social Justice (Orient BlackSwan 2020). According to the publisher’s website Rethinking Social Justice, co-edited by S. Anandhi, Karthick Ram Manoharan, M. Vijayabaskar and A. Kalaiyarasan, offers a more transdisciplinary approach to envisioning a just society that encompasses the intersecting issues of caste, capital, nationalism, gender, region, urban planning and visual representation.

Anandhi, Vijayabaskar and Karthick spoke at the event which largely involved a politically informed activist audience. Anandhi spoke about the key ideas behind and the current significance of the volume. She highlighted the academic interventions of M.S.S. Pandian to whom the book was a homage and whose works were critically engaged and built upon by the contributors to the volume. Speaking about her own chapter and ongoing work, she stressed the need to have more critical attention to the politics of gender in the Dravidian movement.

Vijayabaskar spoke about the political economy under the successive Dravidian parties, highlighting the inclusive model of growth and responding to certain general criticisms of the Dravidian rule. He noted how patterns of growth, industrialization, land reforms, public distribution system, and welfare schemes contributed to the gradual empowerment of marginalized sections of the population. The Dravidian Model, a book authored by Kalaiyarasan and Vijayabaskar, that deals with these topics in greater detail will be published by Cambridge University Press this year.

Based on his ongoing research, Karthick spoke about contributions of the Dravidian Movement and Periyar to the democratic culture and the pluralist ethos of Tamil Nadu’s politics. He noted how at a time of ethnic and religious fundamentalism, the Periyarist legacy eschewed all forms of chauvinism and imagined an idea of ‘Dravidian’ based on shared solidarity than ethnic, religious or caste markers. He used the Laclauian concept of ‘floating signifier’ to explain how ‘Dravidian’ was conceived as an inclusive identity. 

The presentations were bilingual (Tamil and English) and in a manner that was easily accessible to a non-specialist audience. An interactive session followed the presentations. There was an engaged discussion on how marginalized groups like the Dalits can lay claim to the Dravidian movement, the challenge of Tamil nationalism in a time of neo-liberalism, and other issues related to contemporary Tamil politics.

The recording of the event is available on Facebook and has been seen by over 1000 viewers as on 19 March 2021.

Confronting Caste: Panel Discussion at KCL

Panelists and Titles:

Karthick Ram Manoharan (University of Wolverhampton): The Black Shirt Challenge: Periyar contra Aryanism.

Meena Dhanda (University of Wolverhampton): The Concurrence of Anti-racism and Anti-casteism.

Hugo Gorringe (University of Edinburgh): Changing Caste Cultures.

The panel was moderated by Srilata Sircar and Vignesh Rajahmani.

Talk on ‘Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender’, University of Wolverhampton

Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan spoke about Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender at the CTTR public lecture hosted by Prof. Meena Dhanda on 18 February 2021. This event was hosted online by the University of Wolverhampton research group Language Power and Society. This talk looked at South Indian social reformer and anti-caste radical Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s approach to the women’s question. Periyar was not just an advocate of social and economic equality between the sexes but espoused a radical concept of sexual freedom for women, which is central to his concept of liberty as such. While the anti-colonialists of his period defended native traditions and customs, Periyar welcomed modernity and saw it laden with possibilities for the emancipation of women. Likewise, where other social reformers addressed the women’s question within the ambit of the nation and/or the family, Periyar saw both nation and family as institutions that limited the liberties of women. The talk explored Periyar’s booklet Women Enslaved in detail and engaged with lesser known, new primary material of Periyar on the women’s question, concluding with a discussion of his perspective of the West.

The talk was attended by 63 viewers from 12 countries.

Video to the lecture below

Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan’s lecture on “Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender.”

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 the 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 talent of speech 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, especially a proper rationalism, means only atheism. 

Everyone manipulates people’s reason. But 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 proper rationalists. The majority are believers.

This is because life in society is constructed in such a way that it is entirely contradictory to nature. Most of the beliefs, if analyzed, will be unfit for today’s life. Trying to rectify this might need the world’s structure to be changed in its entirety. Hence, rationalism is a tougher choice for those who believe in such structures blindly or for those who are excessively benefited by these structures. Such beneficiaries 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 social experiences, in thoughts, binding a large population. 

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

It is evident that people do not live a rational life in countries where people suffer inequalities, feel incomplete, and compete with others for selfish reasons, whereas in places where 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 without anxiety, and have 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 provide an equal and peaceful life for people, 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 automatically. 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.