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Ever since the learned Pandit Malaviya set his foot on the South Indian soil, he has been most vociferously proclaiming from the raised daises the untold advantages of our time-worn caste system and its impossibility of destruction at any time in the future. Evidently he is engaged in the vain task of turning down the surging tide of organized opposition to this most appalling and suicidal system of caste carried on throughout the length and breadth of this part of the Peninsula. Undoubtedly he is the best fitted person for bolstering up the fast tottering edifice of this antiquated caste system, but alas, even a Pandit Malaviya is incapable of that.

pandit malaviyaIn his recent speech delivered on the 9th May at the Kottayam S.N.D.P. Conference, the Panditji is reported to have said that “the idea of destroying caste was an idle one”. I fear the learned lecturer is “born a century too late”. One is struck with untold wonder and astonishment at the altogether antiquated ideas and opinions of the Panditji. As well he may declare from his seat in the Assembly “the idea of abolishing child marriage is an idle one”. The countless and colossal evils of this cruel caste system are too many and too patent to be lost sight of by any, with eyes to see.The pros and cons of it have for long been discussed and weighed and the consensus of the opinion of the impartial critics and enlightened reformers favours the destruction of this deadly engine of inequities and tyranny. Socially economically and politically the caste system is the greatest obstacle in the way of our nation’s progress. Mr. Chatterjee remarks that “it (caste) dwarfs individual genius, kills initiative, and enterprise and hampers growth and progress” Further “a rigid caste system is antagonistic to progress...”

The social and political effects are equally harmful, though the Panditji complacently refers to the past achievements of this caste system. Says he: “caste system existed in India when India was at the zenith of civilization and power”. But the Panditji assumes, what ought to be proved.Was the caste system alone, or for that matter was it even chiefly responsible for the past glories of our country? Granting it was, does it follow that it may conduce to our future greatness? With equally good logic might we assert that ‘early marriage’, ‘sutti’ and the ‘woeful widowhood’ existed when India was at her zenith of power and prestige? Maybe but “old order changeth yielding place to new And God fulfils himself in many ways (?) Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Indeed one is induced to wonder what Pandit Malaviya and men of his way of thinking mean by caste. If by ‘caste system’ they mean, (and me thinks they cannot mean anything else) a professional division of the society, then ill is spent all their energy; for their eloquent defence of caste comes too late. All those erstwhile impenetrable barriers have been broken down and the former water-tight compartments the community has been divided into, have been completely blown up. But what generally obtains at present here, in our parts at any rate, under the aegis of this shadow of the caste is a meaningless and iniquitous difference between one set of people and another. It is this difference we seek and sedulously attempt to eradicate and surely none can ever checkmate us in this sacred duty of killing the “killing canker”.

To conclude, if the Panditji by his enthusiastic defence on the platforms defends caste system as it obtains at present, then surely, his is a voice in the wilderness. The demolition of ‘caste’ is one of the programmes in the national renaissance and reconstructions and the Indian National Social Conference of 1928 presided over by Mr. Jayakar too has passed a resolution in favour of abolishing it. It has sanctioned inter-dining and inter-marrying and equality amongst Hindus, all of which when accomplished would divest the caste system of its true significance. But if after that, caste retains and signifies anything else, well may the Pandit plead for its retention and we wish him all success in his attempt.

But it is too much to expect from a man who, while advocating temple entry, rather sarcastically remarks; “It might be that there are certain rules in certain temples not to admit certain people beyond certain places. I can quite understand it and in such places these rules should be very clearly laid and made known to all so that there could be no complaint.”Very characteristic of the Panditji indeed! What in the name of equity, does he mean by ‘certain classes of people? If birth, as he himself declares, is no index of a man’s character and if a Brahmin who is bad, is a ‘sudra’ as the Panditji himself duels after quoting Vedavyasa, would he admit every Tom, Jack and Harry with a thread on him into the Sanctum Sanctorum, however bad he may be and forbid the entrance of a ‘sudra’ who is good? Well, we can only warn the Panditji that all the meaningless and mouth-filling rodomontade cannot be swallowed, at any rate by us, the Non-Brahmins however much he may be hailed by the microscopic minority of this presidency. His unflinching advocacy of temple entry on the one had and the eloquent defence of the caste system on the other, the two diametrically opposite things can only go to show us the Pandit in his native, true, Brahminic colour “Delenda est ‘caste’”.

- K.M. Balasubramanian

(Revolt, 22 May 1929)

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