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“A general election is at hand”, says The Freethinker of London, “and this affords to all lovers of freedom of thought an opportunity to use their personal influence in the fight to secure that public administration shall be based upon justice to all citizens, independent of religious or other opinions.” This should be the motto of the Self-respecters also, as regards the coming elections in our country. The strength of any movement lies for the most part, in its success at the polls. Generally speaking, the result of the elections is the index of public opinion. If there are Buddhists in the public bodies, it means Buddhism is in the air; if there are Theosophists it shows Theosophy has a great influence, and if there are Brahmins it indicates that Brahminism has taken hold of the land. Though we are aware of the many back-door methods, and mud-slinging ways adopted in the elections, it cannot be totally denied that in spite of these, the result of the elections has got its own meaning.

s satyamurtiIn as much as the elections are drawing near, the Self-respecters of our country have a similar duty to perform, as the Freethinkers of the West. The latter have proposed “to test and record the opinions of candidates on three important matters,” namely, secular education, the Blasphemy laws and Broadcasting religion. As regards the first, the free thinkers say, for nearly sixty years the state schools have been the cockpit in which the different sections of the Christian church have fought to gain supremacy. “The contest threatens to impose upon the public a larger measure of definite and dogmatic religious teaching which if becomes law, will take many years of hard fighting to effect the removal of the injustice.” Here is a truth, an irrefutable truth for the self-respecters, to chew in. We have painfully realized how religion has wrought untold evils in our country. And the reason for it, we have seen, lies in the religious education given to young minds. The child which is taught about “God” and “Fate” from its sixth year cannot be expected to have any self-confidence or perseverance. The child which is taught that the world is flat like a mat and that it is carried by eight elephants or by a thousand headed serpent, cannot be expected to have a knowledge of the world.

Is it not religion that is responsible for the rottenness of the minds of Satyamurtis and Ramachandras (Brahmin Congressmen from Madras – editors)? Are we not aware of the fact that the existence of 7 crores of the so-called untouchables, is due solely to the religious mindedness of the people? Here is then, the duty of the self-respecters to see that religious education is not given at least in the state aided schools. This can be effected only by sending self-respecters to the legislative and administrative bodies.

As regards the second, The Freethinker says, “the Blasphemy Laws are still un-repealed, and the Christian religion still occupies a privileged position before the law. It is true that prosecutions are today rare, but a law is never dead until it is repealed, and a recrudescence of religious bigotry might once more bring this instrument of religious oppression into active use “The code of Manu is a parallel to the above. Many of the Civil laws are based upon this code, which has been indisputably proved to be the outcome of the Brahminic supremacy. It is this Manudharma Shastra which is responsible for the hypocritical usage of the despicable word, “Sudra.” Examples of unequal justice in the sphere of marriage, inheritance, etc. which are embodied in the Manu, and consequently introduced in the Statute books, are not found wanting. That these laws are detrimental to the interests of the 97 percent of the Hindus, needs no emphasis. The desire for repealing these unequal laws, and enacting a new code of equitable justice, has already been expressed by individuals as well as organizations. It is a matter of no mean importance that we the self-respecters are unanimous about the immediate necessity for wiping off the inequalities perpetrated by the code of Manu. This again can be effected only by those sincere self-respecters who have leisure to feel their shameful position in society.

Thirdly comes the question of broadcasting religion. “The Church in politics,” says The Freethinker, “is one of the most fatal things that can overtake a country at any time; the history of every country in the world proves it.”The same has taken another form in our land. Though the state does not directly participate in broadcasting religion, it cannot be gainsaid that politics is being allowed to be shaped by enthusiasts of religion. Let us take our province as an illustration. The Government in the name of “religious neutrality,” are allowing the orthodox elements to ride roughshod over the masses by opposing all measures which are intended for the amelioration of the oppressed communities. The Devadasis Bills have their Satyamurtis, and the Age of Consent Bills have their Ramachandras. We can imagine what part the self- respecters can play in the coming elections. We need not care to decide whether Mr. Tweedledum or Mr. Tweedledee shall put M.L.C. or M.L.A. at the end of his name. It may not be likely that the self-respecters are sufficiently organized to materially affect the totality of votes cast.

But there are other ways of serving the best interests of the community. The Freethinker suggests three questions to be put either orally or in writing to all candidates for election, and also enjoins its followers to put the questions to the candidates at a public meeting, so as to enhance the effect. Two of the questions are: “Will you, if returned to Parliament, support any measure designed to restrict the education given in all schools receiving state support to secular instruction in the sense indicated by the official code?” and “would you be prepared to vote for a Bill for the abolition of the Statute and common law of blasphemy?” This is the ideal before the self-respecters to be followed in the approaching elections. It may be that candidates who are in entire agreement with the principles of the Self-respect movement, may be found wanting. In such cases – which we are sure, are very rare – we have to make use of the best of what we have. Personalities or high-sounding titles must not receive attention. The self-respecters should make it their duty not to be enticed by the “gilt gingerbread phenomena of the worshipful sort.” Many of us have lived long enough to realize that there is no danger of the immediate ruin of the country whatever political party is returned at the head of affairs. The members of the self-respect movement should be ashamed of being threatened by the spectre of party names. We should not budge an inch from the noble principles set down by our league, for the favour of individuals or parties. Our one aim must be to work for the realization and achievement of our humanitarian precepts, and not the mere success of any party. Therein lies the sincerity and the future of the movement. Let us not lose this splendid opportunity of echoing the spirits of the people, which like wildfire, has spread far and wide. We strongly invite our youths, “to strive, to seek, to find and not yield.”

(Revolt, 29 May 1929)

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