Some Reasons (By Mr. S. M. Michael)
There are one thousand and one reasons why Brahmins were not admitted in the S.I L.F. The first and the most obvious reason is that it is the Non-brahmin party. One would have thought that there was no need to point out so simple and self-evident a truth but it becomes necessary now and then to labour the obvious. In everyday life we sometimes see that children have a clearer grasp of ordinary facts than grown up people. So also in public life occasions arise when the unsophisticated rank and file display a firmer hold over the basic principles of their party than some of their clever leaders who in spite of (or because of) their cleverness are sometimes apt to lose sight of elementary things. On such occasions laymen have a right to respectfully point out to their Gurus their mistakes and to correct them.
One of these simple and elementary truths is, I repeat, that in any movement which calls itself the Non-brahmin movement, a Non-brahmin movement in which room is found for Brahmins will be adjudged by all right-thinking men to be the most irrational contradiction in terms ever heard of even on this planet which Voltaire once described as “the lunatic asylum of the universe.” But to call it a “greater Non-brahmin movement”, how shall one describe it? Is it not easily the grossest abuse of language in which anyone has indulged in the present year of Grace? No, call such a movement either the Hindu movement or the National movement or any other movement but, for goodness’ sake, do not call it, the Non-brahmin movement at all! Even in those hectic days of his inexperience and perfervid pseudo-nationalism the present writer never dreamed of the possibility of including Brahmins in the Non-brahmin movement but suggested that the name of the party should be changed into the Social Democratic Party as a condition precedent to their inclusion. It is happy news that the suggestion was not seriously considered and that the very leaders who are now advocates – I hope they are only acting as a devil’s advocates
– of the pro-brahmin view were dead opposed to such a move then! With riper experience I congratulate them on the sound political instinct that actuated them at that time. Today if anyone else were to propose that the name of our party should be so altered as to permit the admission of all people I would be the first to oppose it. Fifteen years’ political experience has taught me better.
Is it right, then, to try to perpetuate or at any rate to prolong the present communal cleavage? Absolutely. Indeed, it would be wrong if we failed to do so. It is a truism that self-preservation is the first law of life. The self-preservation, the growth and development of the Non-brahmin masses requires that they must organize themselves separately and solidly against the few who, in the name of Dharma, have exploited them. Having organized themselves they ought to preserve their organization intact until they come into their own socially, educationally and politically.
Be it remembered here that it is not the Non-brahmin but it is the Brahmin who originated this class cleavage. Long before the Non-brahmin movement was dreamed of by anybody, the Brahmin had introduced this distinction not only in everyday life but even in official records as the veriest tiro knows. Perhaps the Brahmin apologist will say that this was merely a “social” distinction. No greater absurdity could be imagined. Politics in all countries is the exact reflex of social life. It cannot be otherwise. And after all, social life is more than three fourths of life. Social improvement is the end and aim of politics. How could anyone in his senses expect that in India alone social life and politics would remain two distinct and unrelated factors for all time? The Non-brahmin movement was not founded by Dr. T. M. Nair or Sir P. T. Chettiar or by Mr. O. K. Chettiar or Dr. Natesa Mudaliar. Its foundations were laid by the Brahmins themselves in the remote past when they first introduced this obnoxious distinction between themselves on the one hand and all other classes put together on the other. Do they not boast that ever since their mythological Kali Yuga commenced—no doubt, so far as the masses are concerned it has been a Kali Yuga in deadly earnest right throughout – there are only two castes in India, the Brahmins and the “Shudras” in which “odoriferous” term they include all those who are not Brahmins? Why did not these graceless Mlechas pass a resolution only two or three years ago in open conference at Tanjore (2) to that effect? Is it, then, hypocrisy or congenital idiocy that makes them whine about the injustice of dividing the people into Brahmins and Non-brahmins?
Their objection to a separate Non-brahmin association is still more strange, surprising and inexplicable in view of the formation of a Brahmin Mahasabha. We, Non-brahmins, shall not imitate their bad example; we will not be so foolish as to say that their organisation is uncalled for; we shall not abuse them as rank communalists; we freely admit that they are right in having openly organized themselves against us; the same law of self-preservation that justifies us justifies them also. It is good for us and good for them and good for India that our society is thus for the first time in history organised in two distinct and separate camps with an open declaration of war. It shall be and it must be war to the death between the two. There can be no quarter or mercy, no compromise in this war. Either the one or the other must triumph – autocracy, spiritual and social which is synonymous with Brahmanism or democracy social, intellectual and political represented by Non-Brahmanism. One of these two must conquer. They cannot exist side by side indefinitely for ever. Therefore, it is well that this frank communal cleavage has arisen. Let shallow-witted folks wail that this communalism is a curse. The future impartial historian will call it the greatest good fortune that has ever befallen this country.
Now, what will our Brahmin friends say if a Non-Brahmin were foolish enough to seek admission in the Brahmin Mahasaba? What shouts of laughter there will be what shrieks of anger against the very notion? Why then should our Brahmin friends take umbrage at our refusal to admit them in our avowedly Non-Brahmin organization? Why, in the name of common sense, should the Brahmin press write column after column of leaders and leaderettes piteously pleading that the Brahmins too should be taken into the N-B fold? Why should they condemn our refusal to listen to their advice? Did they really expect us to be deceived so easily?
But, whatever their notion, there has not been even one single Non-Brahmin hitherto who has expressed the slightest desire even in the most remote or indirect manner to be enrolled as a member of the aforesaid Mahasabha; and I am quite confident that there will not be any Non-Brahmin who will do so thereafter. However, the Brahmin in his wisdom has entreated us times without number to broaden the basis of our party as he has been good enough to put it sometimes so as to allow him to enter. Broadening the basis, indeed! If we listened to his appeals we would be so broadening it as to bury it deep enough in all conscience! Was Brahma talking arrant nonsense when these people issued from his mouth, I wonder? Some of their loose, irresponsible and senseless talk is inexplicable. And yet the self-same Brahmin talks big at times and pretends perfect sang-froid and nonchalance about our activities. Have they not beaten Buddhism in the past? Is the Non-Brahmin movement a greater enemy? No, they will beat it yet. Then, in all sober sense, why do they feel so much anxiety about it as to attack and abuse it in season and out of season? Are they not in their hearts’ deepest depths afraid of it?
They are and know it. They know that now they are up against the greatest foe that has threatened their domination in the whole history of India. They know that for the first time in that history Non-Brahmins as such have risen against Brahmins as such. They know that their game is up at last. They know that a greater danger than Buddhism is confronting them today. Buddhism accommodated them. Buddhism perished. Non-Brahmanism refuses even to listen to the question of their accommodation. So Non-Brahmanism may succeed where Buddhism itself failed. Let, therefore, Non-Brahmanism is destroyed by hook or crook! That is the Brahmin’s secret wish. That is the deepest desire. That is his prayer. That is why he is at present trying to worm himself into our favour and so wriggle into our ranks. And that is why we must keep him at a respectable (though not respectful) distance. Till Adharma is destroyed, till Dharma, Sama Dharma, the Dharma of Social Democracy is crowned with victory it is our duty to maintain our organization unimpaired, distinct and intact.
– Revolt, 10 November 1929
Notes to 3.3
- Government Orders issued by the first Justice Party ministry and subsequently made operative by the Independent Ministry headed by Dr. P. Subbaroyan which regulated appointment to government services of the various communities on the basis of their percentage in the total population. Dr. Subbaroyan’s Ministry was sympathetic to Non-brahmin concerns and as chief Minister of the Madras Province, Subbaroyan lent his support to and participated in the First Self-respect Conference held in Chinglepet in 1929.
The Brahmin Sammelan – Maha Sabha – held in 1927 at Thuvar near Tanjore, now Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu unanimously opined that in the ‘Kali Yuga’, that is, in the present, there are only two Varnas –Brahmin and Sudra.