Condition of Untouchables
Periyar's Word

 Condition of Untouchables


We are marginalized as untouchables, we constitute seven crores people in India. If we walk in the street, if others see us, if our shadow falls on others, it is considered as dosham or theetu (sin or impure), they should immediately take a bath, some of them even prefer to do ‘piraaya sitham’ to get away with theetu.

Apart from this, if we need drinking water, we are not permitted to access common ponds, lakes or wells. If we touch (use) any pond or well, it should be purified by chanting (holy slogans), spraying holy water and cow’s urine.

We have to live in a hut a half mile or one and half a mile away from the main village/town where higher caste lives. If we have a hut it should be Ottu veedu or villai veedu (hut built using coconut/palm leaves), if we live in a building it is considered a danger for the village (Oor – where higher caste people lives). The place where we are supposed to live is slum. The place we live in is used as a place for people to litter and to defecate. Because it was considered as safe for them.

We have (caste-wise) traditionally owned works like – manual scavenging (thotti vellai), to sweep roads and to collect faecal (Oor kootti malam alluvathu), to incremate corpse (pinam suduvathu), to remove dead animals, to spread garbage and waste on field, to sow and reap grain and to guard it until it reach the landlords house, to safeguard mudded grains(serukatti vaithirukkum thaniyam) which stored in house and field; to play drum (tapuk kottuthal), to cry for dead body, to collect rice which thrown over dead body to cook and eat, to wear cloth which covered over dead body, to travel as a messenger night and day over 10, 20, 30 miles, these are our birthright.

Apart from this, the upper castes people command that our children should not get education. This command related to religion. Even though, if we try to get education, we do not have schools. If somewhere we find school, we do not have the means to pay, to buy books, to buy clothes, and to feed our children. Those of us who live in the villages should not even think of these things.

Apart from this, we have no Naavithan (barber), even to wash our clothes by ourselves there is no water, well and pond. If there are 500 houses(family) in a village and there are 20 Paraiyar houses (Dalit family), those 20 Paraiyar family’s children are all have to work as slaves for the above mentioned 500 householders (upper caste family). There is no count of night and day. If you ask for a wage, you will get fired. During the agricultural harvest, begging on the field and other times to go home to home to beg shouting like “pichchai podunga saami” (meaning ‘lord give something’). It would be a serious crime if the bowl used to begging was in right shape. This is because there is a myth that the village will be destroyed if the paraiyars uses right shaped bowl for begging. So even though it is a good bowl, it has to be broken and reshaped as plate to use it for begging.

In some places, too many upper-caste people will certainly not give food for Paraiyas. Because they believe while giving food to Paraiyas in house they will get theetu. This is another religious practice. If the upper caste people’s saliva and leftovers, consumed by the Paraiya may cause theetu therefore they leave leftovers in the pit. Some caste people will run to us, to give waste, expired food whenever they hear our voice.

Even in the matter of clothing it was like this, we have no money to buy and wear new clothes; if we wore new clothes they will get jealous. We have to wear the waste clothes of the higher caste people. There are some methods to wear it. That is, dhoti should not hang below knees, women should not cover their breasts as such procedures were followed, and not to wear gold and silver, not to use umbrellas, not to wear slippers, many other conditions like not to use brass, bronze utensils which is available.

In addition, in many jillas (districts) in Tamil Nadu, when we sell the land to each other, the slaves who work on the land will be given our elder’s names, in this way they enslave us and our family. We all become slaves to those who bought the land. And in many jillas (districts) we cannot even describe how much we suffer. Many of you won’t even hear it ever before.

That is to say, one of our castes in Malayala jillas (Kerala districts) called as “Naayaadigal”. They are prohibited to walk on any road. Have to stay in any road which should be away from about 50 yards to more than 100 yards. They are prohibited to do any profession anywhere. To get food, they have to leave a cloth on a road outside the city without anyone knowledge, and run into the forest to hide and should cry “Tambiraane Tambiraane”. People on the road while walking, may leave any eatables or cashes, in the evening, without anybody’s notice they should take and run away. Apart from this, there is nothing that can be done except to rely on paddy that is spilled in the fields, and to kill any pests, insects, creatures etc will be grilled to eat nothing impossible than that of this.

Apart from this, there is a caste in Kerala. They will claim that they are higher caste comparing us. But when they walk down the street, they have to make a noise like “ஹாஹா” (ha ha). Because to announce that “I am lower caste who is coming. The upper castes people who arrived in the opposite direction! Please go aside.” It is like when the motorcars come into the corner, it has to blow horn whether any vehicle arrives in the opposite direction or not. But the motor can only blow in the corners. While they access even the straight road, they are supposed to shout to others to declare that they are lower castes.

In society

Apart from these in society, our status is unchangeable in this current situation, unable to change our status, unable to become rich, unable to start own business and to live independently, we are kept in situation that we are unable to improve our status by getting educated or engage in highly profitable business, even if we try hard we may be eligible to become a peon(office boy/servant) in Swaraj politics,  to a great extent can able to become a policeman, to get contract in local body(panchayat) to construct public toilet. This is also achievable with the mercy of the respective heads of state. Otherwise we have no choice but to work as a clerk or else we have no way to get any job beyond this post. Christians living with a population of over 50 million are of different religious affiliations and are equal to those (Brahmins) who enjoy the privilege of holding positions equal to Brahmins. Alike our population, Muslims who constitute eight crores as a different religion, they have a proportionate ratio of their population in almost all the occupations. And many of them are rich, merchants, farmers, bankers. Other caste people in Hinduism are also progressive. But think how far we have become as educated, bureaucrats, rich, bankers or merchants, with a population of about seven million are indigenous people of this country, or as untouchables, or named Panchamas. Do we have one educated person out of 1000 people? Do we have one wealthy person out of 10000 people? Do we have one bureaucrat out of 100000 bureaucrats? What is the reason behind it?

The title “Adi

We have evidence that we are the indigenous people of this country. We are given the names Adi Dravidar, Adi Andhra, Adi Marathi, Adi Karnataka; all these “Adi” titles were given to us to keep us forever as slaves and untouchables, or else these titles given to us to be respected by people and to be progressive? Or does it help? Think about it. In a country without any other freedom – just with Swaraj (self-government), which still considers one-third of its people as untouchables, lower castes, labourers who gives fruit of their labour to others, who are prohibited to access roads, common ponds, who have no rights to live inside the village, not having enough food and cloths, therefore it should be considered as tyranny–is there any other considerable name to be given to this country? Think about it.

What could be the reason behind it? It must be our mistake.

Brothers! Another thing, I can’t hesitate to say. Does that mean we have to take away our ignorance and inhumanity, which is the main reason for the humiliation and cruelty we seen above? You should not regret it when you say it. Am I telling the truth or not? Think about it. If it is true, it should be immediately looked after.

Brothers! Think about what is the main reason that we are said to be untouchables and treated as untouchables. Do white people, Turks, Chinese and Japanese treat any of their countrymen as untouchable castes and untouchable tribes? Does anyone agree to be treated that way? Why should we only be treated like this in our country? Why should only our country treat ourselves as untouchables? Think about these issues.

And do you think that a foreigner, a Christian or a Muslim, is treating us as untouchables? Do the Buddhists in China and Japan treat us as untouchables? Not so.

Notice carefully, who treats us as untouchables. You know that people, who are born in our country, growing up in our country, and who utilizing our labour is treating us as untouchables. But why are they treating us like this? Observe that.

Is it because we belong to the same nation? Not at all. For no other reason, other than that we belong to the same religion. That is to say that we are all Hindus under one religion, including ourselves and the people who consider us as untouchables. Can anyone say that Islam, Buddhist, and Christian as untouchables which is a different religion, different country? Or do they tolerate others saying so? They will never tolerate it.

Because they do not have ‘untouchability’ in their religion and self-respect is important for them, no one can say that to them. If they say, they will not tolerate it. Immediately they will be “taught lesson”. Do you now realize that the Hindu religion that we carry over our heads is the religion that makes us untouchable or we are untouchables for any other reason? Therefore, if any one of us calls himself as a Hindu, there is no room for anger or objection if he was called by others as untouchable, Paraiyan and Panjaman. Hindu religion holds untouchability and for a long period our ancestors were treated as “Sandala Paraiyas and as untouchables.”

We have come to know that we are accepting ourselves as untouchables by calling ourselves Hindu. Does that mean anything when we suddenly have to disguise ourselves as people who have self-respect, and to declare, “No one will call us as untouchables?” If we say so, do others afraid of it?

If a man applied faecal all over his body and stood in front of others and asks, “Do not treat me badly, do not ask me to go aside” Did anyone obey this? Or is it justifiable? Or else imposing a section in Indian Penal Code that “if a person comes applying faecal in his body should not be asked to stand away and badly treated” if so if one or two member who are criminalised under this section may impact others to stop insulting such a person? Think about it.

Similarly, another sect of Hindus says that other sect people of their religion should not call them as Sutras and also says, “If they call you Sudra get rage and hit,” (“suthiren yendral aathiram kondadi”) through written hangs out. I would also say that this is foolishness. Because anyone who calls himself as Hindu (if he is non-Brahmin), then he can be called as Sudra by the world people.  Someone who denies it must be foolish. This is because every Hindu person has to admit that there is a class called ‘Sudra’ in Hinduism and that title belongs to any person except Brahmins. No matter how many sects within the Hindus, all the sects agree with the Sudra, the Brahmana, the Panchama and the Paraiya.

And if this caste system is part of the Hindu religious sub-divisions like Saiva Puranam, Periya Puranam, 63 Nayanamargal, and in religious customs (samayachaarangalilum), and then who have the rights on these? Think about it. Similarly, if there is evidence in the Vaishnavite, Bhagavad-Bhagavatha, Naalaayiram Divya Prabantham, the Ramayana, etc., then which Vainavan has the rights on these, think about it? If Hinduism is based on the scriptures, Smriti, etc., and in the “Bhagavan sayings” and “the Rishis’s sayings”, then how can the Hindu who is calling this as genuine or the wise? Think about it.

Therefore, it is utter foolishness to get angry on others by thinking that we have been given the title of sudras, untouchables, and panchamas by them. Because, a person who calls himself a Hindu is no other but a person who takes the title of Sudra and Panchama themselves on his head.

Until the existence of Hindu religion

Sutra and Panchama will never disappear until the presence of Hinduism in India. Similarly until the presences of the Hindu Vedas, Shastras, Ramayana Bharatas, Periyapuranam Sivapuranam Thiruvilaiyadal Purana etc., it is impossible to abolish the title of Sutra and the Panchama.

As long as Mr.Gandhi could be a mahatma, as long as Vedhachalam swami could be a swami, as long as Sagajanantham could be a swami, as long as they can able to prove that themselves as Hindu, and claim themselves as Vaishiyas, till that they can prove themselves as a Sudra and third-born outs to privy council. The world people have the right to call them with that identity. As far as these people are doing Hindu and Saiva propaganda, I would say that they are trying to make people like themselves, as Sudras and Panjamas.

Sambandan who confessed to Saiva, Saivan who confessed to saints who worshiped by Samanthan, Saivan who confessed to Sambandan’s Devaram, Saivan who accepts a Sambandan as Brahmin does he have guts to say that he is not a Sudra? Think about that.

If someone who accepting Nandan, he was Paraiyan. Is that possible for them to confess that “he is my caste” and to say he is not untouchable, think about that. If you want to defend with the official and the election, you can talk some trick, like saying, “Tamil Nadu has no caste earlier.” But can he claim to be a Hindu, a Saiva, or a Vaishnava and have an affair with someone else and withdraw himself from the Sutra and Panchama castes? Think about that. “You can’t escape saying you are son of Sudra”

Our Condition in Gandhi’s Swaraj

There can be no doubt that Mr. Gandhi’s Swaraj will safe-guard Hindu religion, no matter how effective or ineffective it is.

Hindu religion have Varnasrama dharma which demands to follow caste occupation generations after generation and to follow caste practices, rituals and customs, it is to protect Hindu religion by Swaraj no one can doubt it.

So during Mr. Gandhi’s Swaraj, whoever is Hindu must come under these three castes. That is to say, the Sutra and the Panchama must come under the rule of the Brahmin. Please bear this mind that the Hindus during Swaraj period will enjoy freedom, freedom of speech, the right to write, and even the right to be heard. This is because during Gandhi’s Swaraj, all those who talk about religious matters and caste matters are liable, will be punished under treasonous laws like 124-A and 153-A.

And a person’s decision of “let go off Hinduism” and doing so can also be considered as crime. Legislation can be made for that. Because according to the Hindu doctrine, a person is born in any religion, any caste has to remain in the same religion and caste until their death. That is why Mr. Gandhi also boldly declared that, “If I achieve my demand Swaraj, I will get rid of all the clergy who run Christian-sponsored schools, hospitals in India.” No one should misunderstand that what he said was intended. It is said in Hindu philosophy that conversion of religion is such a shameful and sinful act. Mr. Gandhi will not tell this to the Muslims, unlike Christians, because it is not a crime to allow the Muslims to convert but because they are afraid of Muslim’s roughness. Therefore, let us not forget that the Gandhian Swaraj is very dangerous to the people under the title of Sutras and the people under the title of Panchama in the Hinduism.

Remember the description of egalitarian philosophy that Mr. Gandhi has repeatedly stated. That is, “equality is not for the body but for the soul.”

And he said in 1919-1920, “I will never ask for Swaraj without abolishing untouchability” and then he said “before the Hindu Muslim unity I will not ask for Swaraj” and “if these two thing not achieved before Swaraj, it will not lost longer

Such a person now bravely asking the British that, “Untouchability and Hindu-Muslim unity can be sorted later. First of all handover the country to me and leave. I will take care of others. ”

What does it mean to think about that? If the regime had come into its own hands and handed the sword to its hands, what else could there be than the idea that the military law could have suppress the Muslims and the untouchables by adding Brahmins and Baniyas? Think about that.

So, dear brothers! Untouchable brothers!! Brothers, who have no right to walk down the street, drink water in the pool or unseeables!!! If you want to be respected as human beings firstly: – Leave Hinduism. Secondly: – convert as Muslims. With these two things we can give self-respect to the people of the world. We have no other excuse! No!! No!!!

Comrade Periyar, Kudi Arasu- 25.10.1931