THUS SPAKE PERIYAR
Havoc played by Brahmins in Tamil country
What is our present position? If you think over and search for a better position, you will in fact agree that we are very slow in eradicating casteism and its evils. We must muster strength and march on with a greater speed.
You must know the history of the Vaikom agitation. A very small incident led to the Vaikom agitation.
Com. Madhavan was an advocate. He was to appear before the honourable judge in a case on behalf of his client. The court was in the compound of the Maharaja’s (emperor’s) palace. At that time, arrangements were made to celebrate the birthday of Rajah (the king). The entire surrounding of the palace was thatched with palymyrah leaves beautifully. Brahmins started chanting mantras (hymns). As Com. Madhavan belonged to the Ezhava (Nadar) community, he was not permitted to enter or pass through the place and reach the court.
It was at this time that the Justice Party was carrying on propaganda in Tamil Nadu for the abolition of castes and untouchability. Inter-caste marriages were encouraged. Schools were thrown open to all. Samabandhi Bojanam (inter-dining) was popular. Such intensive social reform propaganda was carried on in Tamil Nadu by the Justice Party. When Gandhi came to know of what the Justice Party doing in Tamilnadu, he started including our schemes in his constructive programme.
In those days, the Justicites boldly exposed the Brahmins, who were afraid to move about without company. Non-Brahmin leaders like Dr. C. Natesan (Mudaliar), Dr. T.M. Nair and Sir P. Theagarayar educated the masses by their incessant and extensive propaganda and secured the powers in the state. Brahmins were envious of the Justice Party Government. They had no platform in those days. In those days, the Brahmins cunningly took shelter under the slogans “we are not power mongers. We boycott the elections”. With such false slogans they hoodwinked the people and indulged in all sorts of intrigues. Realising the popularity of the Justice Party, Gandhiji concentrated on the problem of untouchability as the only way to bring down the Justice Party rule in Tamil Nadu.
In those days I was very familiar to the leaders of the Justice Party. They had great respect for me because I held many posts. Mr. Rajagopalachari met me and induced me to become a follower of Gandhi. He said that Gandhi alone is capable of carrying out the much needed social reforms. I resigned the post as chairman of Erode Municipality and joined the Congress. Before my entering the Congress, no Tamilian had the honour of becoming the Secretary or president of the Tamil Nadu Congress. I was the first Tamilian to hold these posts in the history of Tamilnadu Congress.
Com. T.V. Kalyanasundaram (Thiru Vi.Ka) was a school master. Dr. P. Varadarajalu (Naidu) was the editor of Prapancha Mitran. Yet Brahmins did not trust him. Com. V.O. Chidambaram (Pillai) was at the mercy of Mr. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar after draining all his resources.
So, the Brahmins did not respect them. They could not ignore me like that, as I already held high posts and hailed from a very big business community. For anything and everything Mr. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) believed me and reposed much confidence in me. I also believed him and reciprocated the confidence he held in me. We both worked together and I carried on an intensive propaganda with the result the Brahmins once again gained the platform. I was very bold in expressing the rationalist views. I openly spoke on god in all my meetings stating, “If the idol would get polluted by the touch of the people, such a god is not required and the idol has to be broken to pieces and used for constructing good roads. Otherwise it may be put near the river banks to be used for washing clothes”. I was often induced to speak, severely by the Brahmins. As I was not for any post or power, the Brahmins remained silent.
What all I say now about god, religion and caste, I used to say even in those days. Rajagopalachari used to tell me that I have administered a very strong dose, after hearing my speeches. (to be continued)
[Collected Works of Periyar , (pp.139 to 141) (4th edn. 2007), The Periyar Self-Respect Propaganda Institution, Periyar Thidal, 50-EVK Sampath Rd., Vepery, Madras - 600 007.]