THE NON-BRAHMIN MANIFESTO (1916)
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THE NON-BRAHMIN MANIFESTO (1916)

At a Conference held in Madras or, the 20th November 1916 and attended by several non-Brahmin gentlemen of position and influence both in Madras and in the mofussil, it was resolved that measures be taken to start a company for publishing a newspaper advocating the cause of the non-Brahmin community, and also that apolitical association be formed to advance, safe-guard and protect the interests of the same community, In accordance with this a Joint Stock Company has been started under the name of “South Indian People’s Association” for conducting a daily newspaper in English, Tamil and Telugu, respectively, and also a Political Association has been formed under the name of “The South Indian Liberal Federation.”

The South Indian people’s Association has issued the following Manifesto addressed to non-Brahmin gentlemen throughout the presidency under the signature of its Secretary, Rao Bahadur P. Theagaraya Chettiar.

MANIFESTO

The time has come when an attempt should be made to define the attitude of the several important non-Brahmin Indian communities in this presidency towards what is called “The Indian Home Rule Movement,” and also to indicate certain facts with respect to their present political position. Not less than 40 out of 41% millions, who form the population of this presidency, are non-Brahmins, and the bulk of the tax payers, including a. large majority of the zamindars, landholders and agriculturists, also belong to the same class. But in what passes for politics in Madras they have not taken the part to which they are entitled. They make little or no use of their influence among the masses for the general advancement of the country, in these days of organised effort, they maintain no advancement of the country.

In these days of organised effort, they maintain no proper organisations for protecting and promoting their common interests and for preventing professional and other politicians, with hardly any corresponding stake in the country, from posing as their accredited spokesmen, Nor have they a press of their own to speak the truth on their behalf. Their political interests, therefore, (as compared with those of the Brahmins who number only about a million and a half), have materially suffered.

PUBLIC SERVICES

The Hon. Sir, Alexander (then Mr.) Cardew, now a member of the Madras Executive Council, in his evidence before the Public Service Commission in 1913, described in detail, the relative positions of the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins in the Public Service of this province, not certainly as a champion of non-Brahmin interest, but with a view to show that if simultaneous examinations in England and India for admission into the Indian Civil Service, were introduced, the Brahmins, whom he characterised as “a small rigidly exclusive caste” would swamp that Service. He is reported to have stated that in the competitive examinations for the Provincial Civil Service, which were held between 1892 and 1904, out of sixteen successful Candidates fifteen were Brahmins, giving a ratio of 95 percent of Brahmin success.

In the Mysore State, where open competitive examinations for the Mysore Civil Service were held during the preceding 20 years, Brahmins secured 85 percent of the vacancies, In the competition for the appointment of Assistant Engineers in Madras, the number of successful candidates, during the same period, was; 17 Brahmins and four non-Brahmins. Similar results were produced by the competitive examination for the Accounts Departments. Out of 140 Deputy Collectors in Madras at the time, 77 were Brahmins, 30 non-Brahmin Hindus, and the rest Muhammadans, Indian Christians, Europeans and Anglo Indians. It is curious to note that even where competitive examinations did not exist, as for instance in the Subordinate Judicial Service of the presidency, the major portion of the appointments was in the hands of the Brahmins, Sir Alexander Cardew stated that, out of 128 permanent District Munsiffs in 1913, 93 were Brahmins, 25 non-Brahmin Hindus and the rest Muhammadans, Indian Christiane, Europeans and Anglo-Indians, From these and other figures of a like nature, he naturally concluded that an open competition for the Civil Service in India would mean almost complete monopoly of the service by the Brahmin caste and the practical exclusion from it of the non-Brahmin classes.

Of course, he did not invite the attention of the Public Service Commission to what prevailed in the important Native States directly under the control of the Madras Government, where, too, the preponderance of Brahmins in the Government Service then, as now, Was not less marked, Nor did lie go into the figures relating to the subordinate services, which are recruited under a system almost wholly of patronage. Surely, in these services the preponderance of Brahmins would be still more striking.

With regard to what obtains at the present moment in the various branches of the Government Service, it is needless to go into the figures. But we cannot help calling attention to the highest appointments open to the Indian in this presidency and the principle upon which they are distributed. Since the Executive, Council of H. E. the Governor has been opened to Indians, three Indian gentlemen have been admitted into it in succession, the two latter being Brahmin lawyers, Of the live Indian Judges of the High Court, four of them, i.e. all the Hindu Judges, are Brahmins. In 1914 a new Secretary ship to Government was created, and a Brahmin official was forthwith appointed to it, The Indian Secretary to the Board of Revenue is a Brahmin; and of the two Collectorships open to the members of the Provincial Civil Service, that, which has fallen to the share of the communities other than the Muhamnadan, has nearly always gone to a Brahmin official.

PUBLIC BODIES

What is true of Government Service is equally true of local and other public bodies. Where an electorate is composed of a large number of Brahmins, the non-Brahmin Indian has hardly a chance., It nearly always happens that while the non-Brahmins do not concentrate upon a single candidate, Brahmin or non-Brahmin, the Brahmins nearly always unite and support their caste man, The Madras University, of which the majority of Indian Fellows, classified under the several Indian groups, are Brahmins, has never returned a non-Brahmin Indian, to the local Legislative Council, so much so that no non-Brahmin Indian, however well qualified otherwise, indulges in the hope of getting elected as member for the University in the Legislative Council, unless it be with the support of the European Fellows, At a meeting of the Madras Legislative Council, held in November 1914, in reply to an interpellation by the late Mr. Kunhi Raman Nayar, it was stated that the total number of registered graduates of the University was 650 of whom 452; were Brahmins, 12 non-Brahmin Hindus and 74 belonged to other communities, and that since 1907, when election of Fellows by registered graduates began, 12 Fellows were elected, of whom with one exception all were Brahmins. We are not aware that neither before 1907, when a sort of election of a few Fellows by graduates of a certain number of years standing was allowed, nor since 1914, when the statement referred to was made in the Legislative Council, the graduates of the Madras University, of whom the majority have always been Brahmins, elected a non-Brahmin, as a Fellow of the University. So that the non-Brahmin, however distinguished, has little or no chance of getting into the Senate of the Madras University through what is called the open door of election, In the election to the Imperial and local Legislative Councils and to municipal bodies one finds the same truth illustrated so far as these elections could be controlled by the “rigidly exclusive caste”.

If, occasionally, a fair minded ruler endeavours to correct the inequality arising from the preponderance of Brahmins on any public body by having recourse to nominations of individuals from comparatively unrepresented interests, he is severely criticised in the Brahmin press. How his Excellency Lord Pentland was dealt with by some of the papers in connection with the recent nominations to his Legislative Council may be cited as the latest example of this kind of hostile and unfair criticism, Outside these responsible bodies more or less under the control of the Government, even in the case of existing political organisations in the city of Madras as well as in the Districts, the figures regarding election, if gone into, will tell the same tale. To quote one of the latest instances, of the 15 gentlemen elected from this presidency to represent it on the All India Congress Committee, with the exception of one solitary non-Brahmin Indian, all are practically Brahmins, and yet the decision of this committee, which is the executive of the Congress, upon matters of grave import, such as the revision of the Indian Constitution after the war, will be held up to the world’s admiring gaze as the considered. opinion, among others of the 40 millions of non-Brahmins of this large and important province, It is our unfortunate experience also that as concessions and rights are more freely bestowed, the rigidly exclusive caste grows still more rigid and exclusive.

NON-BRAHMINS AND EDUCATION

In defence of all this practical monopoly of political power and high government appointments which make for that power, it is pointed out that though the Brahmins are only a small fraction of the population of this presidency, they are far ahead of other communities in regard to university qualification. No one denies, this. Old established traditions, the position of the Brahmins as the highest and the most sacred of the Hindu castes, the nature of their ancient calling, and the steady inculcation of the belief, both by written texts and oral, teaching, that they are so many divinely-ordained intermediaries without whose active intervention and blessing the soul cannot obtain salvation, and their consequent freedom from manual toil all these helped them to adapt themselves easily to the new conditions under British Rule, as under previous epochs, in large numbers and far more successfully than the other castes and communities, Apart, however, from the question of English education, are large material stakes, traditional and inherited interests in the soil and the social prestige that goes with it, influence among the masses, quiet and peaceful occupations that tend to the steady economic development of the province, and overwhelming numerical strength itself, to count for nothing?

Should not the classes and communities that, from time immemorial, have stood for these, receive encouragement from the Government? In the matter of education itself, the advantage is not all on the side of the Brahmin castes, Though rather late in the field, the non-Brahmin communities have begun to move, They now represent various stages of progress, Some of them, such as the Chetti, the Komati, the Mudaliar, the Naidu and the Nayar, have been making rapid progress; and even the least advanced, like those who are ahead of them, are manfully exerting themselves to come up to the standards of the new time, The spirit of educational progress is abroad, and it is a significant circumstance that among some of the non-Brahmin communities the development is more harmonious and less one-sided than among the Brahmins. In spite of the singular solicitude, which for reasons not apparent, the Department of Education has been showing for the education of Brahmin girls and especially of Brahmin widows as if the Brahmins were IA backward class, the percentage of literates among the women of such non-Brahmin communities as the Nayars is higher than among the Brahmins. In a variety of ways and in different walks of life, non-Brahmins will now be found unostentatiously, and yet effectively, contributing to the moral and material progress of this presidency, But these and their brethren have so far been groping helpless in the background, because of the subtle and manifold Ways in which political power and official influences are often exercised by the Brahmin caste.

WANT OF ORGANISATION

We do not deny that in these days of fierce intellectual competition the skill to pass examinations is a valuable personal possession. But it passes our understanding Why a small class, which shows a larger percentage of English knowing men than their neighbours, should be allowed almost to absorb all the government appointments, great and small, high and low, to the exclusion of the latter, among whom may also be found, though in small proportions, men of capacity, enlightenment and culture. The fact cannot be gainsaid that, in spite of the numerous obstacles in their path, as executive and judicial officers, as educationists, lawyers, medical men, engineers, public men and as successful administrators of large and important estates, the non-Brahmin communities have produced men of distinguished attainments and unquestioned eminence, some of whom have found no equals in the Brahmin caste. Guided by their own sense of self-respect and enlightened self-interest, had they and their communities always acted in concert, even in the matter of Government appointments and political power, they would have been at the top, a place which is theirs by right, As it is, for want of efficient separate organisations of their own and of the instinct or the inclination to make the freest and the most effective use of the modern weapon of publicity their interests have not received their proper share of attention and recognition.

PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT WANTED AND NOT UNAUTHORIZED CONSTITUTION – MAKING

Not satisfied with the possession of the key to the present political position, the radical politicians of this presidency, who are apparently never as happy as when they ask for fresh political concessions, irrespective of their suitability to the existing conditions, now ask for Home Rule, and from previous experience, we fear that, if a discordant note is not sounded at the proper time, it will, of course, be made out that all India is keen about Home Rule. It” is not necessary for our purpose to go into the details of this extravagant scheme, or into those of the other submitted to His Excellency the Viceroy by nineteen members of the Imperial Legislative Council, We are not in favour of any measure, which, in operation, is designed, or tends completely, to undermine the influence and authority of the British Rulers, who alone, in the present circumstances of India, are able to hold the scales even between creed and class, and to develop that sense of unity and national solidarity, without which India will continue to be a congeries of mutually exclusive and warring groups, without a common purpose and a common patriotism. While we dissociate ourselves entirely from unauthorised Indian Constitution-making, which seems to be a favourite occupation with a certain class of politicians, we must say that we are strongly in favour of progressive political development of ax well-defined policy of trust in the people, qualified by prudence, and of timely and liberal concessions in the wake of proved fitness.

In the early days of the Indian National Congress, when that movement was directed and controlled on the spot by such sagacious and thoughtful men as the late Messrs. A.O. Hume, W.C. Bonnerjee, Budruddin Tayabji, S. Ramaswami Mudaliar, Rangiah Naidu, Rao Bahadur Sabhapathi Mudaliar and Sir Sankaran Nair, enlightened non-Brahmins all over the presidency gave it their hearty and loyal support. It was then, though not in form and name, but in spirit and method, a truly national institution. Some of the old ideals are still there. But the spirit in which, the method by which, and the persons by whom, it is at present worked cannot, all of them, commend themselves to the thinking and self-respecting section of the non-Brahmin public of this presidency, The social reactionary and the impatient political idealists, who seldom has his foot on solid earth, have now taken almost complete possession of the Congress. Democratic in aims, an irresponsible bureaucracy now manipulates its wires. We sincerely hope that sane and sober politicians, who know the country and its people, and who feel their responsibility to both, will soon reassert their mastery over the Congress machine, and direct it in strict accordance with the living realities of the present.

NO CASTE RULE

For our part, we deprecate, as we have suggested, the introduction of changes not warranted by the present conditions, we cannot too strongly condemn caste or class rule. We are of those who think that in the truest and best interest of India, its Government should continue to be conducted on true British principles of justice and equality of opportunity. We are deeply devoted and loyally attached to British rule, for that rule, in spite of its many short-comings and occasional aberrations, is, in the main, just and sympathetic, We, indeed, hope that our rulers will, as their knowledge of the country expands, be more readily responsive to public feeling, when, of course, that feeling is clearly manifest and decidedly unambiguous, and that before they take any action they will examine the interests and wishes of each caste, class and community with more anxious care than heretofore and in a less conventional manner, When the spirit of social exclusiveness and the rigidity of class and caste begin to disappear, the progress towards self-government will unquestionably be more satisfactory, but, for the present, the practical politician has to concern himself with what lies immediately in front of him.

SELF GOVERNMENT BASED ON EQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF POWER

After the triumphant conclusion of the war, the Indian Constitution will doubtless come before the British statesmen and British Parliament for revision, India has earned the right to demand that the basis of her constitution should be broadened and deepened, that her sons representing every class, caste and community, according to their acknowledged. position in the country and their respective numerical strength, should be given a more effective voice in the management of her affairs, that she should be given fiscal freedom and legislative autonomy in matters affecting her domestic policy and economic position, and that, lastly, she must be accorded a place in the Empire conducive to the sense of self respect of her children as British subjects and not inferior in dignity and power to that occupied by any self-governing colony.

THE IMMEDIATE DUTY OF NON-BRAHMINS

We appeal to the enlightened members of the non-Brahmin communities to be up and doing, their future lies in their own hands. Great and pressing is the task. With which they are confronted. They have, in the first place, to educate their boys and girls in far larger numbers than they have yet done, Associations under the responsible guidance of leading non-Brahmin gentlemen should be started and maintained in a state of efficiency, in every populous centre, not merely to induce the various non-Brahmin communities to avail themselves more freely of the existing facilities for education, and to create such facilities where they do not exist, but also to find adequate funds for the education of such of their poor but intelligent boys and girls as cannot obtain instruction without extraneous pecuniary help.

Indeed, a more vigorous educational policy for the non-Brahmins has long been over-due. Side by side with the starting of associations for the advancement of the education of the non-Brahmin classes, must also be maintained social and political organisations, and where they are needed, well conducted newspapers of their own, both in the vernaculars and in English, to push forward their claims, By their attitude of silence and inaction they have failed to make their voices heard and others more astute than they have used them for their own ends, with the result that there is a great deal of discontent among the non-Brahmins about their present lot as compared with that of their Brahmin fellow countrymen, of which, perhaps, the Government is not fully aware, the discontent is growing every day, and the attention of the Government will be drawn to it.

But the non-Brahmins must first help themselves, Let them do everything needful to ensure a continued educational, social, political and economical development on abroad and enduring basis; and, then, their future as British subjects will be brighter and more prosperous than it is today, What is designated as “Nation building” is a laborious task, involving, and indeed necessitating, in the slow process of evolution, the due performance, in the proper time by each class and community, of the duty it owes to itself first and foremost.

It is our firm conviction that in India, for some time to come at any rate, every community has primarily to put its own house in order, so that, when it has to co-operate with other communities, possibly with higher social pretentions, it may do so, not as a dependent and helpless unit to be made a figure head or cats-paw of, but as a self-respecting and highly developed social organitsation, offering its willing co-operation for the promotion of common objects on terms of perfect equality.

– Justice Party Golden Jubilee Souvenir (1968) & Dravidar 100 (2016).

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