“Even though you consider it an honour bestowed on me to inaugurate the use of this well, frankly I do not feel happy to do this work. In fact I consider it a very painful act to participate in this function. My opinion is that it is an atrocity to dig a separate well for the Adidravidas. Constructing separate wells for Adidravidas raises a permanent barrier between ourselves and Adidravidas and a permanent reminder that Adidravidas are inferior to us and that they are unfit to mix with us. Why should a separate well be constructed for them? Such acts of charities merely help some people to show themselves as benefactors of Adidravidas and superior to them. Why should we not permit Adidraivdas to draw water from our wells? Do not birds and animals partake water from the tanks? Don’t you know how water is filled up in the tanks? Don’t you know what type of impurities are there in that water? Also what type of harms would come to Adidravidas by using that water.”
“In the welcome presented to me, you have praised me stating that I have done a lot for you. That is not true. I have never done anything exclusively for you. To say that one works for the welfare of Adidravidas, for the improvement of the Adidravidas, according to me is mere pretension and show. It is just like saying Europeans rule over India for our good. I do not think along such lines.”
Because we have a caste name ‘Paraiar’ in our country, we also have a caste name called ‘Sudras’. The caste name ‘Sudras’ is more degrading than the caste name ‘paraiar’. According to Hindu sastras there could be chaste women and people born to one father and mother. But according to them that is not the case with the sudras; because ‘sudrachi’ (sudra woman) means one who serves others, a prostitute. ‘Sudran’ (sudra man) means son of one who serves others, a prostitute’s son. According to the sastras, if you do not accept this idea, you are not a Hindu. So if people who are called ‘sudras’ like me work for people called ‘paraiars’, it is just to avoid being called ‘sudras’ by others and nothing else. Therefore, when I work hard for me, it appears to you as if I am working for you. Men and women who consider you inferior, do not understand that they themselves are considered even more inferior by others. Because of the ignorance of considering others as inferior, others considering them as inferior does not appear to them as a low thing.
As if this is not enough, they find fault with you, that foul smell comes from your body, that you do not take bath, do not wash clothes, that you eat beef, that you drink alcohol and preach that you must give up all these. They do not understand who is responsible for your not taking a bath or washing your clothes. When you have no water even for drinking, where is the water for bathing and washing clothes? If you confine people who are called saints and sankaracharis and do not allow them to take bath or wash clothes or wash their teeth, will their clothes be free from dirt, will their bodies and mouths be free from foul odour? If we starve a man and kill him and then if we say he died of starvation, think who really is the ‘sinner’. Instead it is not an honest act to say that your eating beef and drinking alcohol is the reason for your being ‘paraiar’. In fact those who eat beef and drink alcohol are ruling the world today. Besides if you eat beef, the fault is not yours. As you have not been allowed to earn, eat well, walk in the streets, freely move about to go and work and earn accordingly, you are obliged to eat with your limited resources to have more to eat whatever can be had for that money. Even those belonging to Christianity and Islam which permit beef eating say that if they could have more money to spend on food, they would not prefer to eat beef.
But in our country the principal reason for beef eating is utter penury. Also, in what way is beef eating a more sin than eating goat’s flesh, poultry, fish or pig? Poultry, fish and pigs eat dirty things, worms and excreta. When north Indian ‘brahmins’ to south Indian ‘sudras’ eat these, can belong to good castes and can be touched, how can one become inferior by eating beef which comes from animals that eat good grass, cotton seed, and chaff. Even then do they say about all people who eat beef ‘Don’t touch’, ‘Don’t walk on the streets’, ‘Don’t drink water from the tank’ and ‘Don’t live within the village’? My conclusion is that this is a dishonest, irresponsible reason for keeping you in a degraded condition rather than a real cause. I am not objecting that beef and alcohol should be given up. But when some say that if you give up these your caste will have a higher status, then I object to that dishonest uttering. I will not ask you to give up beef or alcohol just to raise your caste to a high level. For that, there is no need for you to do that either. You do not consume all the toddy taken from coconut and palm trees, or liquor brewed or drinks imported from foreign lands to the value of ten to fifteen crores in our province! Nobody will believe that either. If somebody says that for getting higher caste status you must do so, let them give up first.
I accept that consuming liquor is opposed to the good conduct of man. I have also done some service for abolition of drinking habits. But giving up what is consumed by all has nothing to do with becoming a higher caste. So if any one says avoiding beef and alcohol is good to become a higher caste I say it is a lie. Also I cannot help but point out some faults in you. You yourselves earn degradation for your caste. You greet everybody unnecessarily and address them “Swami”. In your blood is ingrained the feeling that you are inferior to others. You must change. When you see somebody, you must ask yourself, “In what way I am different from him?”. You cannot raise the level of a caste that has lost its self-respect. Each one must feel that he is a human being. You should not hereafter call any body “swami”. If you want, just call, ‘Ayya’. You must give up the bad habits of going apart and away from others. Then alone you will be treated equally.
(A speech delivered at inauguration of a well at Gandhi Reading Library Annual Day held at Karaikudi Siravayal on 6.4.1926.)
Translated by Prof.T.Marx
(Republic ( kudiarasu)25.4.1926)