“It is said that god has created untouchability. If that is true, first, we should destroy such a god. If the god is unaware of this practice, then he should be destroyed even earlier. If the god is unable to stop this injustice or protect its victims, then he has no place in this world.” – Periyar, Kudi Arasu, 17 February 1929
More often than not, we are not even aware how we start believing certain things or how we are made to believe them. For instance, folk tales condition us to consider some things as obvious truths. In folk tales, when the protagonist leaves his home for a hunting expedition or work or for any other reason, the elders of the family tell him, “Son, you can go to the east or to the west. You can go northwards without thinking twice. But in no case should you go to the south.” In these stories, the south is invariably home to a demon or a witch. Or sometimes, it may be the abode of an enchanting princess, reaching whom involves formidable risks like crossing a river of fire. In these stories, one who allowed fear to get the better of him or was unsuccessful in his mission never returned. In other words, their expeditions didn’t make for much of a story. Those who ignored the injunctions and the warnings and courageously marched towards the forbidden destination and returned from there safely were hailed. Travelling to the south meant inviting perils. But it was also a journey that made heroes.