Translated by J Devika
[this is an earlier version of a translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, from Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]
[ Editorial, ‘Streekal Iniyum Unarukayille?’, Vanitakusumam* 1 (11) M. E. 1103 Dhanu ( December-January 1927-28): 387-88]
* The Vanitakusumam was published from Kottayam in 1927 and was edited by V. C. John, who also edited the newspaper Pratidinam. It is said to have had a subscription of more than 2000, the largest of all women’s magazines in Malayalam at that time, though it proved to be quite short-lived. Raghavan 1985, p. 147.
The elections and nominations to the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly are over. The government of Tiruvitamkoor has not been benevolent enough to appoint a single woman member. We would, however, blame women themselves for the government’s present unwillingness to appoint at least one member from womenfolk, who constitute the majority of the country’s population.
The work of intrepid struggle and sound bargaining to secure legitimate rights is the responsibility of women themselves. Any complacency on their part, induced by the hope that the government—which has displayed its conservatism in all affairs—will concede their rights and authority in full recognition of justice, and the mood of the times, would be most foolish. In all the countries of the world, women have won their freedom and rights only through agitation. These contestations have made it evident that “only the infant that cries will have milk”. Tiruvitamkoor is no different from other countries. It seems that here too, women will not be able to obtain citizenship and political rights without considerable struggle. This is but an opinion shaped by close observation of Tiruvitamkoor’s modern condition. Many are probably under the impression that the political freedom of women has been secured with the appointment of a woman member –albeit an official one. However, even such people will not hesitate to admit that this is erroneous. The right to serve the country is not a male monopoly. Women have the right and the freedom to engage in such service. The women of the West have attained this. The women of the East have begun to emulate their exertions, and to enjoy the fruits of their labour a little. Tiruvitamkoor occupies an exalted position in the matter of female education. The number of women with higher education is not at all negligible here. The land of Vanchi (Tiruvitamkoor) is indeed blessed in that it is the mother of many efficient and sagacious daughters, who may take up not only social leadership, but also exert political supremacy. Therefore, it may be claimed that women who are both eligible and able to render public service and capable of entering the Popular Assembly, Corporation Councils and Panchayat institutions are certainly not rare here. Suffice to say, however, that the government is not prepared to acknowledge this reality, and even if it does so, to take pertinent action in its light. Each community is advancing the weight of its numbers and demanding representation in government service and public bodies; the government has proved quite pliable to their demands. However it seems quite reluctant to accede to the same policy of representation when women advance their claims on similar arguments. In these circumstances, all we can say to the women of Tiruvitamkoor is this. You must not while away anymore time in idle slumber. Open your eyes to the realities of the world, ascertain your needs, recognise your rights, and move to secure them. Do not ever harbour the hope that others will plead on your behalf and help you claim your rightful share, even in your wildest dreams. No history-book has recorded such an instance in the world. Therefore, awake, fight for political freedom. You will surely have the support and sympathy of progressive men. In the current Popular Assembly, you have been granted no place. If this experience is not to be repeated in the coming legislature, your efforts must begin now.