A striking aspect of the Dravidian brand of rationalism is how it attacks only Hindu beliefs and icons and is very careful to never critique the beliefs and practices of any other religion. Let us peer back in history and see if it was always so.
Dravidian publications and rationalist critique
In Kuti Arasu, EV Ramasamy’s journal, an essay titled – “Why Purdah must be abolished” – was published on 14-10-1928. On 4-11-1929, M S Hussain Saheb, writing for Kuti Arasu, wrote in an essay titled “The Injustice of Purdah” –
“Men and women must be allowed to see each other freely and intermingle, so that they may wed based on mutual attraction and understanding. Can a man have any greater pleasure than a wife of his heart’s desire? Why must we hide our women behind a visual prison in the name of religion?”
In 3-3-1929, Kuti Arasu published another essay – “Islam and the Self-Respect Movement”, in which they decried the clergy as “Pauranika liars” who would cheat young Muslims and mislead them away from the path of rationalism and making enlightened choices for themselves.
On Jun 17, 1932, a Self-Respect Conference was held in Mannargudi under the chairship of Smt Kunjitham, a young graduate and wife of “Kuthoosi” Gurusami, EV Ramasamy”s confidante. In this, Smt Kunjitham spoke –
“The Congress under Mr Gandhi wants to keep Hindu, Muslim and Christian faiths as they are and seek unity among all Indians. However, we wish to destroy all such religious faiths as we believe only freedom from such faith can lead to social unity.“
P. Kalifullah, a Muslim League leader and sometime collaborator of the Justice Party leadership, openly said that if the Self-Respect Movement had to gain any support among Muslims of South India, they should give up on the habit of applying their principles of atheism to Islam. The Dar-ul-Islam, a Tamil publication wrote against the idea of Dravidian race politics and cautioned “The Tirukkural may be another Holy Book and Tiruvalluvar another Prophet in a Dravida Nadu“. In Aiyampettai, a small town in Thanjavur District, the local jamaat excommunicated all Muslim members of the Self-Respect Movement.
By November 1935, EV Ramasamy wrote –
“If, to shun the religion that imposes untouchability on them, Ambedkar and his followers turn to Islam for succour rather than to atheism, we would not have any objections to it.“
Ramanathapuram Baghdad Sahib writing in “Madras Mail” in January 1939 –
“Periyar is a Muslim inside. His plan is to outwardly stay in the Hindu faith and send the Depressed Classes over to Islam“. There was no objection from any quarters to this claim.
In the Kuti Arasu editorial of April 17, 1947, EV Ramasamy wrote –
“In a Dravidian Government, Muslims and Christians shall be regarded as groups friendly to the Dravidians. Muslims, being Dravidians, must have equal rights over the Tamil Land. Except for the small matter of religion, there is no means by which one can divide the Islamic and non-Islamic Dravidians“.
Writing in Viduthalai on July 15, 1947, EV Ramasamy –
“There is so much in common with the original Dravidian religion and Islam. The Arab word for Dravidian religion is Islam. When the Aryan faith was sought to be forced on our people, the Prophet Muhammed revived our people”s original faith by means of Islam“.
Addressing the Trichy Employees Association in March 1947, he said –
“Before Islam, Christianity, Shiva, Rama or Krishna, we Dravidians had our own pristine religion. Do not think Islam is an invention of the Prophet or that the Sahibs (Urdu speaking Muslims of Madras Presidency), Rowthers, Marakkaiyars or Mappillas are the sole Muslims of this land”.
As we can see, the slightest resistance from the Indian Muslim population was sufficient to make the Dravidian movement capitulate, while the campaign of abuse and calumny against Hinduism has gone on for decades, inspite of wide spread protests.