It seems to me that greater troubles and greater conflicts are being caused by the language issue on the one hand, and political ideologies on the other, than by caste and religious differences. Taking the case of Madras State, the language issue seems to have provoked greater opposition than issues based on caste. Fortunately the language controversy has so far taken only the form of protests, as far as this State is concerned. But in the North, the quarrel over languages has resulted in serious rioting.
In former days the greed of kings to extend their sovereignty led to wars. Now, countries are ranged in opposing camps on the basis of the form of administration or political ideology. All are agreed that the administrative setup must be democratic; but the dispute is whether the American form of democracy, branded by Russia as capitalistic, or the Russian form of democracy, branded by America as Communist, should prevail. The personal ego of former kings has now given place to the ideological ego of party bosses. No doubt, some countries like India are remaining outside both the ideological camps. However this is a political matter, the solution of which is not my concern.
We require a language or languages to communicate our thoughts to one another. If we take the case of India, we will find that the language of the region changes roughly for every 500 miles. Similarly the same language underwent drastic changes in the course of every 500 years. This can be verified if we survey the incidence of language from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas and from the remote past to modern times. Languages serve a very useful purpose and no one will subscribe to the proposition that because languages gave room for controversy, there shall be no languages at all. Languages have come into existence, not for the purpose of creating linguistic quarrels, but for serving mankind. Therefore, a rational mind will try to probe into the causes which give rise to linguistic controversies and tackle those causes with a view to eliminating them.
The genius of Tamil is its hospitality for other languages. People from the South have gone to the Telugu and Maharashtra areas long ago and settled there. In the Telugu country they are known as Dravidas; but they know not a word of Tamil now. Similarly there are Dravids in Maharashtra, who have adopted Marathi as their mother tongue. But in Tamil Nadu, there are people from Andhra, Gujarat, Maharashtra and other places. Though they are here for generations, they continue to talk among themselves in their respective mother tongue. They are also proficient in Tamil. In fact several non-Tamilians have composed Tamil works. Tamilians have also the capacity to pick up the language of their surroundings in a short time. Tamil Nadu can be compared to a refrigerator, capable of preserving all the languages existing in its midst, whereas in other areas alien languages have disappeared with the passage of time. Therefore, over this language issue, Tamilians have a great responsibility of maintaining their praiseworthy tradition of hospitality. We should not approach the language problem with the notion that one language is superior to another. A spirit of camaraderie and a liberal outlook in adopting the noble ideas contained in one language by the other languages, will result in the enrichment of all languages and in the development of mutual respect and regard among the people speaking different tongues. That is the way to abolish linguistic fanaticism.
If a thing is good basically, but for some cause evil resulted from it, the sane view is to retain the thing for its good and to eliminate the root cause of the evil result. This principle is applicable in the case of religion and caste also. If we take caste into consideration, we will find that the system was devised for the smooth functioning of society and not for the exploitation of one caste by another. It is a functional division, each doing his allotted duty, and all together contributing to the general welfare of the community. According to the nature of the function, the nature of food, the forms of daily anushtaanaas, and the way of life, were adopted. Aasramaas (stages of life) have also been prescribed for a similar purpose. There is no justification for one caste regarding itself as superior to another. Restrictions that were imposed pertain to marriage and personal observances, and not to social life. Such restrictions prevail everywhere. The origin of the trouble can be ultimately traced to egoism and selfishness, one caste regarding itself superior to another. Each of us must develop an outlook that will make us regard the troubles, sorrows, and difficulties of others as our own. If a member of another caste is in difficulties, our duty is to go to his aid first, before attending to our own needs. If we develop this broad outlook, which is both correct and sastraic, there will be proper understanding among the castes and a harmonious and integrated social life. Sarve janah sukhino bhavantu सर्वॆ जना: सुखिनो भवन्तु ) – the happiness of all should be our guiding principle.
As for religious concord, we should first of all stop criticizing and finding fault with other religious and religious sects. We should examine ourselves first and see if we have lived up to the requirements of our religion, before we proceed to criticize the other man’s religion. Religion is intended to elevate man spiritually and to bring him nearer and nearer to God. Before we begin to advise others, we should conquer kaama (desires), krodha (anger), and dvesha (hatred). We should approach all religions in a spirit of humility and appreciate the good points in all religions. Such a friendly approach will remove the edge of all controversies and religion will become a source of strength and inspiration, instead of degenerating into a bone of contention.
Take an illustration. Here is a bundle of faggots. There are a number of individual faggots in it; but all of them are tied up together with one string. If I remove one faggot from the bundle, the bond will immediately become loose and the other faggots will slip out automatically. Supposing the faggots are first tied into four or five smaller bundles, then all these four or five smaller bundles are tied together with a common bond, then even when one faggot gets loose, the bundle as a whole will remain unaffected. Similarly members of society are tied together in a number of cohesive bundles called castes, and all these bundles are tied together with the common bond called religion. Caste and religion are meant to keep society together in a strong bond of camaraderie so that all the component members will strive for the general welfare of the community as a whole, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and co-operation, and not meant to create hatred and conflicts. We should strive to lead a sinless life, uphold human brotherhood, and earn the grace of Isvara.
January 20, 1958