Talks with Naicker – Lohia

[A meeting took place with Mr. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker, the Dravida Kazhagam’s aged leader, on the 23rd January 1958 at Madras. The Kazhagam leader was undergoing six month’s prison sentence on a charge of inciting his followers to violence against Brahmins. The talk took place in the general hospital where Mr. Naicker was lodged and lasted for an hour. Prior permission for the interview had been obtained from the Madras government. Here is reproduced a summary of the talk which appeared in “Chaukhambha” in Hindi. The conversation took place in Tamil and Hindi. G. Murahari acted as the interpretor.]

Mr. Naicker: I do not know English properly and do not know Hindi at all.

Lohia: You speak in Tamil and I in Hindi. This friend, Mr. G. Murahari, will act as an interpreter.

Mr. Naicker: Sorry, sorry. Very good.

Lohia: I wanted to mect you since a very long time. But that was not possible. The only purpose of my visit to Madras this time was to meet you.

Mr. Naicker: I am very happy to meet you. I feel that as if a long standing heavy burden from my mind has been removed.

Lohia: How is your health now?

Mr. Naicker: YI am much better than before. I have to suffer these imprisonments for the sake of ideals,

Lohia: Persons of your age should not be in jail.

{Both agreed that the law in the country has reached a very low level. Law is being made dependent upon the likes and dislikes of certain individuals and not on the basis of justice.]

Mr. Naicker: I never incited my followers to violence. I only said that if Brahminism was not eradicated by peaceful means we should not be surprised if the people took to violence.

The prime minister while speaking at the Tirchirappalli meeting has done injustice to me by saying that I was mad and that I must get the maximum punishment.

Lohia: Indeed injustice has been done to you. A case of contempt of court can be instituted against Mr. Nehru, for when he delivered this speech, your case was being heard in the court. One of the reasons of my coming here to meet you is that I wanted to record my protest against the above statement of the prime minister and to impress upon you that in this matter most people in the north think like me and not like Mr. Nehru. I would want that you think over all the problems facing the country. It is good that you want destruction of the caste system and you agitate against it. The caste system must be ended. But this agitation should not be directed against individual Brahmins.

Mr. Naicker: I have nothing to do with violence. Reality is this that the press in Madras is in the hands of Brahmins and they want to defame me. I always keep myself restrained Probably, after my death security of Brahmins may become difficult. There is an article in  Kalki to substantiate this. Sri Rajagopalachari writes regularly for it. It said that the sentence awarded to Naicker was very inadequate. The Madras government should appeal to the High Court to increase the sentence.

Lohia: Not to incite for violence alone is not enough, but it should be stated in clear terms that there should be no violence against individual Brahmins.

Mr. Naicker: J agree that violence will destroy both, Brahmins and my Party but this will not happen as long as I am alive. ‘

Lohia: I am with you against the fight to eradicate the caste system and am prepared to go to jail with you. I would also welcome if a movement is started to remove caste name plates. But this is possible only if you give up your demands of,

1. Opposition to north India, which includes the demand of Dravidistan;

2. Anti-Hindi agitation;

3. Burning photographs of Gandhi; and

4. Violence against individual Brahmins.

Gandhi is the symbol of the nation. His photos should not be burnt. I am generally of the opinion that nobody’s photographs should be burnt. Nevertheless, if you burn photographs of Mr. Nehru I will not have much objection, for he is not the symbol of the nation. As far as the Constitution is concerned, it is improper to burn it, but I can tolerate its burning, for the government itself often violates the sanctity and limits of the Constitution.

Mr. Naicker: These things are not significant. The main fight is against the caste system. I repeat that I never incite violence against individual Brahmins. Our Party organ “Viduthalai” has never talked of violence in the past ten years.

Lohia: You consider over giving up these insignificant things.

[ Both agreed that they will meet after Mr. Naicker’s release and in the meantime Mr. Naicker will consider over these matters.Before departing, Mr. Naicker regretted that he could not entertain Lohia as he was in jail.]

The main purpose of my talk with the Dravida Kazhagam leader, Mr. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker, was to persuade him to accept the unity of India. I made it clear to Mr. Naicker that I certainly appreciated his hurt feelings but he should restrain his bitterness. Continuance of the Dravida Kazhagam campaign in its present form could only lead to destruction.

I was provoked when I heard the language in which the prime minister had condemned the Dravida Kazhagam activities. T wrote to the jail minister of Uttar Pradesh that I would, should I get the opportunity speak to Mr. Naicker appreciating his hurt feelings.

I have admiration for two qualities of Mr. Naicker: He is a man of action and he had a burning sense of resistence to injustice. I, however, strongly disagree with him in his methods.

There is no doubt that the Dravida Kazhagam is indulging in very bad acts. The burning of the constitution and national flag must be condemned. Breaking somebody’s thread by force was equally condemnable. But the destruction of symbols of caste like the thread or tuft would be praiseworthy.

I told the Kazhagam leader that I stood for the destruction of caste. Mere caste reform would not suffice. I promised to accompany Mr. Naicker in a campaign, even breaking laws, for achieving this object. But I feel strongly that personal violence should be abjured. Personal violence would be against human rights.

I recall what Mrs. Aung San had told me when asked about her rebel sister: “I am in Burma and mother to all my children, both loyal as well as rebel. I shall punish them, but still they are my children.” The nation should realise that Mother India loved all her children, including rebels. Mr. Naicker had a right to feel hurt by the remarks of the prime minister on the Dravida Kazhagam.

I discussed with him the Kazhagam campaign against Hindi, Constitution and Gandhi’s photos, as well as the demand for Dravidistan. I appealed to the Kazhagam leader that his grievances should not lead to the disruption of India. I wanted  that he should accept the unity of India. He should give up the demand for Dravidastan.

I told Mr. Naicker that I visualise the possibility of my speaking to him in Tamil and Mr, Naicker replying in Hindi. The Kazhagam leader, seemed to appreciate this approach. Mr. Naicker also agreed with me in his feeling that Mahatma Gandhi was today a sacred symbol and his pictures should not be insulted.

Mr. Naicker pointed out that he had not asked his followers to resort to violence. The judge who tried him had appreciated this point. His words had been misconstrued. His was only a compaign against caste symbols. Mr. Naicker assured me of his awareness that personal violence would only lead to mutual destruction. He would not want a situation similar to that which led to partition of India.

I cannot say that I had been able to convert Mr. Naicker, I was able to understand better the mind of this man of action I hope to pursue the contact and continue my efforts to influence Mr. Naicker and men of his line of thinking. I very much regret that on this single issue of language, the south talked of walking out of the Indian Union.

The Caste system (1964) Page 74-78 – Ram Manohar Lohia

Lohia organised a conference “End Caste Conference”in Patna, on March 31- April 2, 1961 and passed the following resolution for the annihilation of caste in India:

1) Mixed Dinner: The Conference appealed to the people of India and its units to organise mixed dinner parties everywhere in the country especially in the village.

2) Marriage: The Conference was of the opinion that the caste system can be destroyed only when inter-caste marriages became common. To propagate these ideas discussions, plays and fairs should be organised. The enforcement of inter-caste marriages by government would not suffice. The Conference was clear that here inter-caste marriage would mean the marriage between Dvija and Shudras or Syeds and Julahas, and not between different sub-castes among high-castes.

3) The Conference suggested opined that titles affixed to names should be evolved in such a way that it does not indicate the caste of a person.

4) The Conference also passed a resolution for granting special opportunities to those who have been oppressed for thousands of years so as to bring about a positive change, in the traditional set up in society because the caste system results in erosion of strength and ability of these. Keeping in mind the question of merit the Conference resolved, “Whether able or not, Women, Shudras, Harijans, Backward Castes, Adivasis, and Muslims like weavers will have to be given 60 per cent reservation “

(Lohia, The Caste System, 1964: 141)

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